Hathras conspiracy: UP govt links Kerala journalist to SIMI
From a newspaper’s front page calling Osama Bin Laden a “martyr” to a fake identity card; from a distinction between a contributor and a journalist to details of cases registered against the Popular Front of India (PFI); from call details to a letter of vigilance inquiry, the Uttar Pradesh government has spared no effort to oppose the release of Siddique Kappan.
Kappan, secretary of the Delhi unit of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), was arrested on October 5 while on his way to Hathras in Uttar Padesh after the September gangrape of a 19-year-old woman who died in hospital of injuries she suffered in the sexual assault. KUWJ subsequently approached the Supreme Court, calling Kappan’s arrest illegal and an attempt to silence the media.
But the UP government, in its latest affidavit, has sought to highlight Kappan’s alleged association with the now-banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and the PFI, besides discrediting KUWJ. It has maintained that Kappan is not a journalist nor is KUWJ a credible organisation while citing Kappan’s alleged links with the (SIMI) and its alleged off-shoot, PFI. The latter is not a banned outfit under the law.
Senior advocate Kapil SIbal, appearing for the KUWJ, submitted that they would want to rebut the allegations and need time to do it. “Since no immediate relief is likely, we would want time to file response to what the state has to say,” he told a bench, led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde.
The UP government’s affidavit has contended that the Union filed its petition at the behest of SIMI and the PFI, for whom Kappan worked actively. The state said the Delhi unit of KUWJ was itself facing a vigilance inquiry over embezzlement and misappropriation of public funds following a Kerala high court order. It added that the Union’s Thrissur unit was also facing charges of grabbing the devaswom (religious trust) land of the Vadakkumnatha temple in Kerala.
“It (KUWJ) does not represent all journalists. There is a separate association of journalists which is the mainstream association. Therefore, the present petition is not maintainable...,” it stated.
“Kappan and all other co-accused (three others who were arrested with him) are directly and closely associated with PFI members, who have been the executive members of the banned terrorist organisation SIMI,” it added.
It accused the KUWJ of concealing the “true identity” of Kappan as it sought to pass him off as a journalist who was going to report in Hathras even though the newspaper, Thejas, he claimed to work for shut down in December 2018.
While adding that most of the former editors of Thejas were the executive members of the PFI, the affidavit said that Kappan worked as a “contributor” and not as a full-time working journalist. Attaching with the affidavit a copy of the newspaper clipping, it said Thejas had such extreme views that its front-page story on November 30, 2011 carried a picture of Bin Laden, describing him as a “martyr.” The state accused Kappan of being a “mastermind” having links with various riots and working in tandem with the editors of Thejas to trigger religious discord in Kerala.
“As per the investigations till date, most of the executive members of PFI who are ex-office bearers of terrorist organisation SIMI have been in close intimacy with Kappan... Documents (allegedly found from Kappan’s house) disclosed formation of PFI as a reincarnation of SIMI after being banned. Also, the motive and ideology of both PFI and SIMI are corroborative,” claimed the affidavit.
Submitting that Kappan and the three co-accused were also being investigated for suspicious money transactions in their accounts, the affidavit contended that all four were going to Hathras on the instructions of Md Danish – an accused in the Delhi riots case of February, to provoke class and caste conflicts in UP.
It added that Kappan was also not cooperating with the investigators and besides lying about his house in Delhi, he also is not sharing details of his social media accounts. The KUWJ has sought time to respond to this affidavit, following which the matter was posted for third week of January.