On October 5th that marks one year of the arrest of Siddique Kappan, Atiqur Rahman, Masud Khan and Mohammed Alam on their way to Hathras, colleagues, family members and rights activists condemned the UP state's actions in public meetings. When a massive protest gathering happened in Kappan's native place, Vengara's Poocholamadu in the morning, a public protest gathering happened in the evening at Calicut.
Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), the body that Siddique Kappan represents expressed their reflections and feelings about the arrest of a colleague, whose incarceration is getting prolonged without trial. KUWJ's district units held protest gatherings in all districts of Kerala.
"When he was arrested a year ago we expected he would get bail and would be released. Now we do not know when he will be released. The government is going ahead with revengeful actions against journalists. He only tried to go to Hathras for reporting but such a usual act of a journalist is criminalized. He did report the flaws of the government. There is no trial happening in this case. If we journalists don't have this awareness, how adjectives like 'fourth estate' or 'watchdog' will suit us?" Firoz Khan, president of Calicut press club who presided over the meeting,asked.
MV Sreyams Kumar MP, who owns Mathrubhumi daily inaugurating the solidarity meeting said that the era of fair reporting has ended in India. Pointing at the way Lakhimpur Kheri murder of farmers by BJP leaders was reported he said, "I, being closely worked with news agencies including INS and PTI know well how they function. All these news agencies are under government control and no news reach people. The reason that there are no protests happening in other parts of the country for Siddique Kappan is affecting the case too," he said.
Senior journalist NP Rajendran, who was an editor of Thalsamayam daily where Siddique Kappan was working as a New Delhi reporter pointed out that after the daily had to shut down, Siddique Kappan became jobless again.
"Siddique's latest report was published in Prasadhakan magazine, which was published with prominence right after his arrest. Prasadhakan is a small venture. He was finding a space in all possible places." "When his reports are translated into the charge sheet, they can do it in a way they want. Will anyone believe if we say that the evidence in the charge sheet is false? The current attitude and approach of the present government don't look like he can get out anytime soon. These laws can be used against anyone. He is in jail with an alleged association with a political organization that is not even banned. Only a nationwide protest will be of some effect for his release." NP Rajendran said.
"The 1857 rebellion for freedom was called Sepoy mutiny by the British. Today KUWJ, one of India's biggest journalists union's fights is being called 'media sepoy mutiny'. The government is devaluing our protests. It is in this democratic country without any trial, a journalist among us is standing counting the bars. Now, even an Indian Parliament Member himself expressed helplessness. We have a judiciary, we are the fourth estate, and can we excuse these? We are living in modern times. We can hope next year we should not be sitting like this," said Kamal Varadoor, former state president of KUWJ.
KUWJ state committee member Vipulnath said that the union should stop ignoring the members who are disagreeing with the cause of Siddique Kappan's release. Members of the KUWJ who spoke in the meeting expressed their opinion that the union have to expand the protests strongly.
In a public meeting held in the evening, Siddique Kappan's wife Reyhanath recalled the day of Siddique's arrest. "I was worried when he was not in reach for a day. Usually, the phone might get switched off if he is reporting from the ground. Also, his phone had problems. The journalist with crores in his account as they allege didn't have a proper phone. He was waiting to get another phone with the next salary. He is a diabetic since 25 years old. I spent the whole day in anxiety and when I was told he was arrested, I was relieved that nothing happened to his life.
On the second day, a UAPA charge was added. He used to interview family members of UAPA prisoners. I was in shock. As the girl's body was forcefully cremated, Hathras case received all worlds' attention. He decided to go there. He never writes just sitting in the office, he goes to the ground and reports. He had to go to Hathras, an absolutely unfamiliar place. I and my children will never stoop our heads. We struggle so much but we are proud of him" she said.
Incarcerated with No charge sheet provided, no trial
''When they withhold the charge sheet, they can add charges to it. Indian Express first reported on the details of the charge sheet (which is paged 5,000). But the police are not providing the charge sheet to us. The case hearings are postponed several times. There was even three to four months' interval in between hearings. The charge sheet was submitted in the case when the detention reached its sixth month.
He had reported floods in Kashmir for ten days. He interviewed the wives of two Delhi professors who are imprisoned with UAPA. The police threatened him saying, "These works are enough for us to keep you inside for years".
I, being the wife of a UAPA prisoner received several phone calls from journalists in past one week. Will they all be arrested? I know there is no point in getting tired in this fight. Here, truth and justice have no value and this can happen to anyone.
You all must remember my husband is in jail for a social cause,'' Reyhanath reminded. ''The UP police mentions 36 articles reported by him in the charge sheet. There are hundreds of articles that he prepared that discuss several other issues. Journalism is not about writing according to the needs of the state. It is about exposing truth and justice, that is what he did. We don't want a second year of his detention. We need him back," she said.
Senior journalist and Siddique Kappan solidarity committee's chairperson NP Chekkutty questioned the Kerala government's inaction in the case of Siddique Kappan. He said that the only intervention the government made was writing a letter to the UP government seeking to ensure the better treatment to Kappan when he was "CoVID infected, in-custody, chained to a hospital bed and provided with a bottle to urinate".
"The apathy this government continues to have in this case can't be allowed," he said.
"The charges of the UP government that Kappan went to Hathras to mobilize protestors, distributed money among them, gave a speech there etc. are baseless and illogical. In which language Kappan who is fluent in Malayalam and English would've given a speech to UP natives? By the UNO, prisoners like Siddique are termed 'prisoners of conscience. They are imprisoned not because of a crime, but because of their faith, politics and philosophies." Chekkutty said.
MK Raghavan MP, inaugurating the meeting said that the UP police do not have a clear answer for why Siddique is arrested and imprisoned. "Everyone knows why Siddique went to Hathras. In the 5,000-page charge sheet, they portrayed him as an anti-national. The press is the strongest pillar of democracy, now even this isn't spared. The journalist's basic right to do their work is being denied today. In several hearings of the Delhi high court and the Supreme Court, the court asked the police to define sedition. The courts have noticed the state's tendency to imprison anyone who expresses dissent. But we must not forget how the court discriminated against Republic TV's Arnab Goswami, by giving him bail in two days. The judiciary must self examine this. Nobody arrested Anita Pratap who interviewed LTTE chief Velupillai Prabhakaran. Nobody arrested Nakkeeran Gopalan for interviewing Veerappan. Today the reason why Siddique Kappan was arrested is his Muslim identity. The democratic secularists in this country must join this fight" the MP said.
Human rights activist A Vasu stressed that we must think about why Dalit girls are subjected to rape in Indian states. "Those who rule us today are the ones who made rules to oppress Dalits, created gods to oppress Dalits. Such an oppressed community is continuously destroyed. Dr Ambedkar had said until you stop worshipping the Brahmin gods you will be ruled by Brahmin gods. We must understand what is savarna ideology which sustains caste system . Why are Dalit girls are subjected to rape, only understanding the basis of this and react can save us. Indian communists, unlike past times, do not talk about caste.
Stan Swamy died in jail. Maudani is still in jail. We are late to realize certain things," A Vasu said.
Suprabhatam executive editor A Sajeevan, Dr.PK Poker, KUWJ Calicut district unit secretary PS Rakesh, Vilayodi Sivankutty, Maruvakku editor Ambika et.al spoke in the meeting.presiding the meeting