Siddique Kappan, the Kerala-based freelance journalist who was arrested in October 2020 while covering the gang-rape case in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, was named in the 5,000-page chargesheet filed by the Uttar Pradesh Police on Saturday, Live Law reported.
The chargesheet also named seven others- national general secretary of Campus Front of India (CFI) KA Rauf Sherif, CFI national treasurer Atikur Rahman, general secretary of Delhi CFI Masud Ahmed, CFI member Mohammed Alam, Anshad Badruddin and Firoz Khan.
The CFI is the students’ wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), an organisation that describes itself as “a neo-social movement which strives for the empowerment of marginalised section of India”. The organisation was banned by the Uttar Pradesh government following the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Lucknow in January 2020, accusing them of funding the protests.
On September 14, 2020, a Dalit girl was allegedly raped by four upper-caste men in Hathras. She succumbed to her injuries on September 29, 2020 in Delhi’s Safdarjung Hospital and was hurriedly cremated by the Uttar Pradesh Police in the dead of the night the next day near her village. The rushed manner of the victim’s last rites, which her family alleged was done without their consent, caught the nation’s attention. The CBI filed a 2,000-page charge sheet against the four accused in the rape case.
On October 5, Kappan along with Rahman, Ahmed and Alam was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police while on their way to cover the Hathras gang-rape case under the anti-terror laws of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The FIR filed against them claimed that they intended “to breach peace” in Hathras as a part of a “conspiracy”.
Following a plea filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), demanding the release of Kappan on the grounds that his bedridden mother’s health was in a critical condition and her last wish was to see her son, the Supreme Court had granted a five-day bail to Kappan in February 2021.
The Enforcement Directorate had filed a first chargesheet in February accusing the PFI members of money laundering while claiming that they wanted to “incite communal riots and spread terror”.
In the latest chargesheet filed on April 3, the accused have been booked under sections 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language), 124(A) (sedition), 295 (A) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings) and 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 17 and 18 of the UAPA related to raising funds for terror acts and several other sections of the IT Act.
According to a report by NDTV, the KUWJ has urged the Supreme Court for an independent inquiry by a retired judge to determine Kappan’s alleged “illegal arrest and detention” while claiming that the Uttar Pradesh Police has made an “absolute false and incorrect statement” of Kappan being a secretary of the PFI.
The court will hear the matter next on May 1.