UP: Kerala Journalist Siddique Kappan Freed After Over 2 Yrs, 'Faced Discrimination' in Jail
Photo- Abdul Alim Jafri
Lucknow: In his first reaction after walking out of Lucknow district jail on Thursday morning, journalist Siddique Kappan, booked on charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), said that the belief in his innocence had kept him alive for more than 27 months in prison.
Kappan thanked the media and the people of the country who have supported him for the last 2.8 years. “I am delighted and grateful that so many kind-hearted souls and secular media supported my release from prison,” he said soon after walking out of jail.
Kappan’s release comes more than a month after he was granted bail on December 23, 2022, by the Allahabad High Court in a money laundering case filed by the Enforcement Directorate.
Speaking with NewsClick after his release, Kappan said he finally realised the true sense of freedom. “After walking out of jail following many struggles to acquire bail, I realised the value of freedom; I am like a free bird now. I will continue my profession after reaching Delhi and the resistance against injustice will also continue,” he said.
Accusing the Uttar Pradesh police of religious and regional discrimination in prison, the Malayali Journalist further added, “The experience in jail was not so good. Being Muslim and South Indian, I faced discrimination from the jail authority. I was only allowed to read Hindi newspapers, not English, Urdu and Malayali. For the first three months in jail, I was not allowed to read any Islamic books and Quran. However, I later got a copy of the Quran. I read many books, including Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk to Freedom’.”
Kappan was happy after reuniting with his wife and children after more than two years, but there was a palpable sense of grief on his face as he lost his pillar of strength -- his mother. “I have lost my ailing mother during the struggle. I am happy to be with my children and wife but no one can fill the space of my mother,” the distraught journalist said.
When asked about his connection with the now-banned People’s Front of India, he said, “Being a journalist and holding the post of secretary of the Delhi unit of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ), I have contact details of everyone, including RSS leaders, Muslim League, Congress and PFI. Being against the government’s policies does not mean that we are terrorists,” he claimed.
He also accused the Mathura Jail authority of harassing him. “The jail authorities not only harassed me but I was also seen as an alien when I spoke in my mother tongue (Malayali). During Covid-19, I was not allowed to go to the washroom. They provided me with a bottle to urinate,” Kappan alleged.
Meanwhile, Kappan, along with his family members, will meet Roop Rekha Verma, who volunteered to stand as surety to fulfil the court condition for the journalist’s release in the UAPA case, confirmed his lawyer Dhanish KS.
A resident of Malappuram in Kerala, Kappan was on his way to cover the gang rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras town on October 5, 2020, when he was arrested from Mathura toll plaza along with three others.
The First Information Report (FIR) charged him with Section 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the grounds of religion, etc.) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Later, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) charged Kappan under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Last year on September 9, the Supreme Court granted him bail in the UAPA case, stating that “every citizen has the right to free expression” and observed that the journalist was eligible for bail based on the length of the custody undergone and the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case. The court asked Kappan to stay in Delhi for the next six weeks and comply with other bail conditions.
On December 23, the Allahabad High Court also gave him bail in the money laundering case. However, despite the bail orders, Kappan remained in jail for over a month due to bureaucratic delays.
Mohammed Alam, the taxi driver arrested along with journalist Siddique Kappan, walked out of jail on January 5 after 27 months in prison.
Alam, a native of Rampur, had got bail in August and October last year in the two cases in which he was booked. He was the first among four – the other three being Delhi-based journalist Kappan and PFI members Atikur Rahman and Masud Ahmad – who were arrested by the UP Police on October 5, 2020, and booked under the stringent UAPA, charges of sedition and sections of the IT Act.
Two other accused persons in the case – Atikur Rahman and Masud Ahmad – continue to be behind bars.
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