The updates regarding the health of Siddique Kappan, journalist and Secretary of the Delhi chapter of Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) arrested in Uttar Pradesh last year, are worrying. The police arrested Kappan on October 5th, 2020, when he was on his way to Hathras visit the house of the victim of rape and murder of a Dalit girl by upper castes. The charges include sedition, promoting enmity between communities, and gathering funds for terrorist activities. Even international media had reported the murder of the girl in Hathras and the inhumane attitude of the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh. It is only natural that a journalist working based out of Delhi would visit the location. However, the arrests made on serious charges are a direct testament to how horribly the police raj is being carried out in UP.
Siddique Kappan already has health problems due to heart disease and diabetes. Reports say that he has now been diagnosed with COVID-19 too. About 80 of the inmates of the Mathura jail, where Kapppan is currently lodged, had earlier come down with the coronavirus. As his condition worsened, Kappan, who was earlier admitted to the jail hospital, has now been transferred to KVM Medical College Hospital. The state of the preventive activities and available treatment in Uttar Pradesh can be gleaned from the reports and images coming from the state. Chaos prevails in the health and treatment sectors. Images of people scrambling for oxygen cylinders, helpless people wandering the streets with the lifeless bodies of loved ones, and relatives of sick people screaming for life, continue to come from the state.
One can only imagine how a Keralite imprisoned under UAPA would be treated in such a state. The Chief Minister there is one who has no understanding of anything other than insane communalism with a system that works similarly under him. It is noteworthy that since the arrest of Siddique Kappan, the KUWJ has been on the scene to stand with him and provide necessary legal assistance. They were not ready to give away a colleague to state terrorism. Now that he has been affected by Covid, his wife Raihana and KUWJ have come out again demanding that the Kerala government speak up on behalf of Kappan. They have demanded that the Kerala government intervene to ensure better treatment and facilitate his release.
There are many dimensions to human rights activists demanding Kerala government's intervention into Siddique Kappan's issue. It is true that there are technical constraints for the Kerala Government to intervene on someone in a jail in Uttar Pradesh. However, the government can do a lot in public opinion formation, and also exerting pressure for a man who has been denied justice. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that the state government has 'limitations' in this regard. Although he has reiterated this, he had also sent an official letter to the UAE when Tushar Vellapilly had been arrested for a microfinance scam. He has also spoken up for Stan Swamy who is jailed under the UAPA in connection to the Bhima Koregaon case. However, the question of why the Chief Minister of Kerala is unable to speak a word on behalf of the Keralite journalist who has been denied human rights and is facing serious health problems, will continue to be raised. With or without the intervention of the Chief Minister, it is time for human rights activists to push for the release of Siddique Kappan.