On 23 December, soon after Siddique Kappan received bail in the PMLA case, South First spoke to his wife Raihanath.
Although she expressed happiness at his securing the bail, her words also echoed the fear that his release might be delayed. She surmised there could be a delay in the verification process.
“Verification seems to be such a big task. It should have been a simple process but not yet over. Such issues can happen but we are unaware of its procedures,” she told South First.
Her concerns proved to be valid: It took 40 more days for him to walk out of the UP jail. Kappan was released on Thursday, 2 February.
UP-based journalists Alim Ullah Khan and Kumar Sauvir provided sureties in the Allahabad court for his release.
Speaking to South First, both of them said they considered it a responsibility to stand by a falsely-accused journalist.
‘Kappan a symbol of resistance’
Alim Ullah Khan is an Urdu journalist and the co-author of the book Baa Izzat Bari?, which he co-authored with fellow-journalist Manisha Bhalla.
The book tracks the life of 16 people who were put behind bars for several years and later acquitted due to lack of evidence in court. Two years of research went into it.
“The power and the system put together accusations, one-sided investigations, and those who fell victim had no opportunity to explain, no escape, no right to speak. These youths of a particular religion spent years rotting in jail and were eventually ‘acquitted’ by the same courts where they were made an accused and pushed into the river of oppression,” he said.
“This book not only narrates the painful tales of those youths but also fulfils the duty of keeping these stories alive in the memory of the country,” reads the description of Khan’s book.
Thus, for Khan standing alongside Kappan was a responsibility and a moment for him to stand up for the democratic values of the country.
According to him, the UP police tried to threaten him saying, “He is from Kerala, and if you give the surety to Kappan, the government will put you under surveillance.”
Bias in the case
He added that the UP government’s bias in the case could be inferred from the way the government dealt with Kappan’s case and the false charges levelled against him.
According to Khan, the whole issue is related to the growing “fascism, the authoritarianism of governments and snatching away of citizens’ rights” in this country.
“What the government did against Kappan is not in line with the democratic values existing in our nation. This is our responsibility — as a journalist, as an activist, and as a writer — to stand in solidarity with those who are fighting against this crisis,” he said.
Khan holds a PhD from JNU and has been tracking the Hathras case since its beginning. Thus, when Kappan’s lawyer called Khan for help, he happily gave his car’s papers for surety and became the bailer for Kappan.
“When the lawyer called me to ask if I could provide surety for Kappan’s bail, for me it was a small thing to do. He is a symbol of resistance in this country and I did it with all my heart,” said Khan.
He recounted that on 2 February, when Kappan was released, he came out of the jail with a smile on his face and appeared confident.
During a conversation with Khan, Kappan said he didn’t have any privileges of a political prisoner and he was jailed along with those who had serious criminal charges against them.
According to Khan, the jailer of the UP prison told Kappan that there were many journalists waiting outside, and if he made any “problematic” statements, yet another case would be filed against him.
‘Journalism is my religion’
Kumar Sauvir is a senior journalist with 43 years of experience. Sauvir kept a property owned by him as surety to bail out Kappan.
It was through Shital Singh of the web portal Satya Hindi that Sauvir got to know that Kappan required someone from Uttar Pradesh to provide sureties.
“I knew Kappan from the time of the Hathra case where a Dalit woman was raped and cremated by the police. In my enquiry, I found out he had no connection with the PFI or any other extremist organisations and the allegations were false. Thus, I gave the papers of my property to bail out Siddique Kappan. I did not consider the value of the property. All I had in mind was Kappan was an innocent journalist and I wanted to see him come out of jail,” said Sauvir.
When Sauvir submitted the papers in court, he said he could not present himself in court as he was hospitalised after a brain stroke.
Although he told the police of his inability to be present in person, the cops insisted that he come to the police station at the earliest.
After Kappan’s release, Sauvir met him.
“He told me that he was abused in jail by the authorities because he was Muslim, an ‘anti-national’ and a person who ate cow meat. Those in the bureaucracy using such kind of language is a shameful matter, and food is a personal choice. People consume cow meat in Kerala, and it is a part of their food habit. Why should these people interfere in such matters?” said Sauvir
“I don’t care if Kappan is Hindu or Muslim. Journalism is my religion, and we need to stand with a journalist who is framed,” he added.
Charges against Kappan
Delhi-based Kappen was picked up by the Uttar Pradesh police from a toll plaza in Mathura on 5 October, 2020.
The journalist and three others were proceeding to Hathras to cover the gang rape and murder of a 19-year-old Dalit woman.
The police alleged that Kappan had links with the now-banned Popular Front of India (PFI) and charged him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and sections of the Indian Penal Code.
The Allahabad High Court granted bail to Kappan on Friday, 23 December, in a case registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The Supreme Court on 9 September granted bail to him in the Hathras conspiracy case.
Kappan was initially arrested on suspicion of breaching peace but was later charged under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or the UAPA.
It was alleged that Kappan and his co-passengers were trying to foment communal riots and disrupt social harmony after the notorious gang rape and murder.
The journalist was charged under Sections 17/18 of the UAPA, Sections 120B and 153A/295A of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 65/72 of the IT Act.
Kappan approached the Supreme Court after the Allahabad High Court upheld a Mathura court’s rejection of his bail application. The high court observed that he had “no work” at Hathras.
A bench of the then Chief Justice of India UU Lalit and Justice S Ravindra Bhat granted him bail.
While granting him bail, the court directed him to appear before the Delhi police for six weeks and later report to the Kerala police.