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The silence on Siddique Kappans arrest: A threat to the fourth estate
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The silence on Siddique Kappan's arrest: A threat to the fourth estate

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Siddique Kappan is clearly just another victim of the witch-huntings being unleashed in the country, especially after the Anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act) protests, in which PFI( Popular Front of India) was one among the outfits in the forefront.

If anyone happens to take a peep into Arnab Goswami's securing of a bail over a 2018 abetment-to-suicide case where the Supreme Court took the stance for a quick adjournment to sit for the trial and granting him bail, one would likely be reminded of the significance of the fourth estate of a democratic country and would have rejoiced at it. And when the Hathras rape case shook the conscience of the country, journalists were the front-end sentinels to bring forth the government's hasty order for a midnight cremation of the victim.

But as the media tried to unveil many of the hidden agenda of caste-based discrimination and how rape has been used as a tool to suppress the lower castes and how the government stands as a mute spectator, this has also turned out to be an incident in which the media and journalists confronted crassintolerance from the government and police forces.

Why would the government take a different take on the journalists in these two incidents is a question a normal Indian citizen finds very easy to answer. But other than the fact that the Centre needs the aid of media to push forward its fascist propaganda and to eliminate those who try to reveal the injustices, there is a hysterical public silence on the arrest and assault of the journalists and the existence of pusillanimous caste-based atrocities at its zenith, which remain unaddressed for so long.

"Neither the state government nor the Chief Minister has yet given any response on the case nor paidheed to our frequent appeals to intervene. The office of DGP of the state has sent a notice which said the Kerala government cannot interfere in this case as it happened in another state," said Raihana, Siddique Kappan's wife, sitting for a 'Dharna' in front of the Kerala Secretariat demanding support from the government to intervene in his arbitrary arrest. She also said that the UP government had arrested him on false allegations and they don't have any evidence to substantiate his involvement in any offenceto be charged with UAPA other than the fabricated versions of the police.

Siddique Kappan was one among the three journalists who rushed to the village to report the incident and were slapped with UAPA alleging his past PFI (Popular Front of India) connection and that his move was to instil a communal divide under the garb of an expired journalist ID card.

Considering that the Indian Penal code or the Press Council Act does not containany law mandatinga neutral political stance on journalists and as an active journalist holdingthe position of the secretary of KUWJ (Kerala Union of Working Journalists)in the country's capital for 9 years, the alleged version of his past relation with the party will not hold water.

"Except for his short interregnum with the PFI years back, he doesn't hold any connections with the party now, and moreover it is not a legally banned organization; nor was'Thejas' for which he worked. The newspaper had to close down due to a financial crash and was not banned according to the UP Police." says KUWJ President K.P. Reji.

"He has been working freely as a journalist for the past many years and only when he chose to report a particular incident at a specific spot, was he arrested and charged; and that's something which raises suspicions in the move of UP police to slapUAPA for a trivial FIR, and for thiswe have decided to move forward with the petition," he adds.

While observing the counter affidavit of the case appended to the KUWJ petition, and responding to the media haul pointing out the disparity between Arnab Goswami's case and Kappan's case, the CJI S.A Bobde commented that "every case is different in itself".

Owing to many of these differences, ironicall, we can observe that Kappan is clearly just another victim of the witch-hunting prevalent in the country especially after the Anti CAA protests, in which PFI was one among the organisations in the forefront.

"My husband has nothing to do with PFI. He is an independent journalist trying to meet both ends of his family. The allegations of the UP Police are fabricated. Thejas was closed down due to financial stringency and was not banned. If the police claims any unlawful transactions to his accounts, why don't they check those?" asks Raihana.

She adds that Kappan was asked to tell the names of two CPM workers and if he id, he could be saved. He was also asked whether he approached any Congress workers and was intimidated with a questionif he had any connection with Rahul Gandhi.

Regardless of the scenario, what should matter most to the public conscience is not his framed PFI links or the use of an old ID card but the denial of the rights of media and journalists toreport crucial incidents such as the Hathras rape case - in which the Central Government and the UP Government have shown a dramatic indifference by being apathetic in handling the horrifying rape and murder of a Dalit girl.

But unfortunately the public silence on his arrest has also encouraged the Centre to charge a Campus Front of India (CFI) member Rauf Shareef with UAPA in the Hathras case alleging his connection with Kappan's travel expenseto UP, which clearly shows that this is a continuation of the series of Muslim witch hunting involving leaders of anti CAA protests and a part of the recordof the Sangh Parivar in framing the Muslim youth as 'rioters' and 'terrorists'. And in no time, the fourth estate has become a scapegoat which in a way is a severe attack on democracy and freedom of the press.

Apart from the hue and cry of a bunch of journalists, neither the public conscience nor the Chief Minister's statement on his arrest as a journalist from Kerala was influenced by the fact of a journalist being subjected to assaults and harassments while in custody of the UP Police. If the approach of the state governments to the fourth pillar of democracy in the wake of human rights activists and scholars getting rounded upby the Central Government is such that it fails to ensure the rights of media the watchdog of a country that bring outthe truth and expose injustices and hold the regimes accountable to its people, then it becomes a grave threat to the very democracy of the country.

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TAGS:Siddique Kappan Fourth Estate Press Freedom 
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