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'Is there no justice in this country?'

By SHOBHA WARRIER
December 18, 2020 09:24 IST
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'He was tortured in police custody.'
'"Do you not have any rape cases to write about in Kerala?" "Why is it that a Muslim from Kerala has so much sympathy for a Dalit woman in UP?" "Why did Rahul Gandhi visit your wife?"'
'These were the kind of questions the UP police asked him.'

IMAGE: Members of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists hold a candlelight vigil at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to protest the arrest of journalist Sidhique Kappan by the Uttar Pradesh police. Photograph: ANI Photo

When Shobha Warrier/rediff.com spoke to Raihana Sidhique, arrested journalist Sidhique Kappan's wife, in November, she was hopeful that her husband would be granted bail by the highest court.

All her hopes were dashed when the Supreme Court listened to the arguments of the Uttar Pradesh government and adjourned the bail plea. The hearing has now been postponed to January 21, 2021.

On the 5th of October, Sidhique was arrested in Mathura along with three other people who were members of the Campus Front of India when he was on his way to cover the gruesome rape and murder of a Dalit woman in Hathras.

"I was very hopeful of him getting bail when I spoke to you last. The way they (the UP government) are adding more and more cases on him, I am getting scared. I am crying so much that sometimes I feel my heart will explode and I will die..." weeps Raihana.

 

Opposing your husband's bail plea application, the UP government argued two days ago that he had links with the banned organisation SIMI and he was working under the cover as a journalist while being a member of the Popular Front of India...

It is not true at all. They have been lying profusely, each time a different lie just to see that he does not get bail.

My husband is not a member of the PFI, and he has no connection with SIMI. They first said he was a member of the PFI, but what evidence do they have to establish that? What evidence do they have about his connection with SIMI?

Every time his bail application comes for hearing, they come up with a new allegation. Then, KUWJ (Kerala Union of Working Journalists) provides evidences to show that their allegations were wrong.

So, next time, they come up with a new allegation. That's the pattern they are following.

At the beginning, the UP government alleged that Kappan was a member of the PFI and the three others in the car were members of Campus Front. Their argument was that he had worked with the paper published by PFI, Tejas earlier...

Yes, he had worked with Tejas as a journalist. The paper had not just Sidhique Kappan as a journalist; they were many people working. Does that mean all those people who worked in Tejas were PFI members? Just because he worked with Tejas, will he become a member of the PFI?

For argument sake, even if he is a PFI member, is becoming a member of the PFI not allowed? Is it a banned organisation? As far as I know, the PFI is not banned in India.

But the fact is, he is not a member of the PFI, but he had worked with Tejas first. But when it was folded up, he worked for Talsamayam. When that also stopped publication, he started working for Azhimugham. In between, he worked for Veekshanam and Mangalam also for a few months.

There is proper evidence to show that he worked for all these publications.

He was the secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists. Do you think the other journalists were fools to make a PFI member their union Secretary?

Why do you think they are talking about links to SIMI now, and not PFI?

PFI is not a banned organisation while SIMI is. I found out that it was formed in 1977 and banned in 2001. You know, Ikka (Sidhique Kappan) is only 41 years old. At what age do you think he might have joined and worked for SIMI?

You have to understand that Ikka is a journalist and he has met so many people in his career. He was friends with people belonging to the RSS, the BJP, the Congress, the Communists as he meets all of them as a journalist. Similarly, he may be friends with the members of the PFI also. Remember, he worked with their publication, Tejas.

Why are they not saying this man has connections with the RSS, the BJP, the Communists and the Congress? Why are they only talking about the PFI?

The enforcement directorate says the Hathras trip was funded by PFI...

First, they were talking about Rs 100 crores and a Web site created by him. Now, we don't hear about that at all. I don't know where that hundred crores and the Web site vanished.

So far, KUWJ had provided the evidence against all their accusations. When they see that the accusations were wrong, they create new ones.

Every single accusation is a lie.

Have they been able to see a single paisa in Sidhique Kappan's account?

IMAGE: Raihana with her husband Sidhique Kappan. Photographs: Kind courtesy Raihana Sidhique

What the ED accuses the Kappan and the PFI is money laundering. They say that because the Campus Front did not have an account, all the money was sent through the personal account of one Rauf who was arrested the other day...

Tell me, what is Kappan's connection in all this? They have not been able to prove that he was a member of the PFI. They have not been able to find any money in Kappan's account.

I don't know whether they are going to put money in his account to trap him. Till now, except the salary he was getting from Azhimugham, you will not find anything extra in his account.

What wrong has he done except that he was in the car with them?

I am told this Rauf is a businessman. My question is, did this Rauf give any money to Sidhique for the trip? Why is there no evidence to show that?

They say Sidhique Kappan is not a journalist. Can anyone who knows him say that he is not a journalist?

For the last 10 years, he has been working as a journalist from Delhi. If he was not a journalist, how did he become the secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists? They can also read what he has written so far.

On this trip, he was carrying the laptop given by Azhimugham. Now, they say he had in his laptop bag the Tejas ID card. That was the ID card he had when he was working for Tejas. But Azhimugham has given written statement to the court that Kappan was working for them.

What I cannot understand is we get to hear only the lies perpetrated by them.

When you say, them, do you mean the UP government?

The UP government. They are the people who arrested him and put him in police custody first.

I do not know who is behind this conspiracy and why this is happening.

They come up with a new list of people that Sidhique knows, every time the bail application comes up. Won't a journalist know many people? Won't a journalist interact with people belonging to all political parties?

Do you think the mistake Kappan made was go with those three people belonging to the Campus Front?

Just because he went with them, he will not become a member of the PFI. What about all these years of his career as a journalist? Has his work so far, no value?

He only wanted to go to Hathras to write the story as it was a burning issue then. I am sure he would not have thought in his wildest dreams that the trip would end up like this, and he would be in jail.

If he knew he would be arrested by the police, do you think he would make such a trip with them?

In fact, he was asking around whether any other journalist was going to Hathras as he wanted to go there to write a story.

He went there after Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi were stopped from entering Hathras.

My question is, why was only Sidhique Kappan arrested? What about the other journalists who went there? Did no one go?

Is it because this man has a Muslim name? Is it because he is from Kerala?

Yes, they achieved one thing. That was the end of what happened at Hathras.

Is anyone talking or writing about that girl or the incident now?

Those who tortured and murdered the girl mercilessly are roaming around freely while the man who went to write about is in jail. What kind of justice is this?

The only intention they have is he should not get bail.

When they found that the PFI angle did not work, they brought in SIMI. Now, he is being connected to the Delhi riots.

The UP government in its affidavit says that Kappan has been constantly in touch with those involved in the Delhi riots... What do you say about that?

What can I say? They may even connect him to all the other riots that has happened in the country.

I am told some other problem that happened in UP on the 4th of October has also been attributed to the person who went there on the 5th.

His bail plea has been postponed for one-and-a-half months.

Is it fair to keep an innocent man inside and not even grant him bail? Is there no justice in this country?

When we spoke in November, you had not been able to get in touch with him. Were you able to speak to him after that?

At that time, I was not even sure whether he was alive. We had no touch with him for one-and -a-half months. Not even the lawyer could talk to him.

After the court order, I was able to talk to him once a week, and the lawyer was able to meet him. For a month, we spoke once in a week, then he was given permission to talk every day.

Was he upset?

No, he was not upset. He told me, 'Why should I be scared when I didn't do any wrong? I went there to cover a story. I was arrested under the orders from the top'.

He tells me all the time to be strong. I asked him whether the police tortured him, initially he said, no.

But when I went on asking him, he finally confessed that he was tortured when he was in police custody.

This happened on the 5th and 6th of October when he did not agree with the allegations.

The UP government told the court that Kappan did not cooperate in the questioning...

Yes, they wanted him to agree to all the lies they said. When they asked, 'Are you a terrorist, he was supposed to say, yes, I am a terrorist. When they asked, 'Were you involved with PFI?', he should say, yes, I am. When they asked, 'Did you get Rs 100 crores?', he should say, yes, I got Rs 100 crores.

Because he did not say yes to all the accusations, it was non-cooperation.

All this torture was because he was from Kerala.

Why is it so?

The other three people who were arrested along with him were not physically tortured. Only Sidhique Kappan, who is from Kerala, was tortured. I don't know why. Do they hate Keralites that much?

'Do you not have any rape cases to write about in Kerala? Why is it that a Muslim from Kerala has so much sympathy for a Dalit woman in UP? Why did Rahul Gandhi visit your wife?' These were the kind of questions the UP police asked him.

You met Rahul Gandhi when he came to Malappuram. Was it to give a petition?

I went to Wayanad, requested him to help me. He never visited our house. Then I met him again in Malappuram. He said, he would pass on my petition to Priyanka Gandhi.

Though he promised to help, he has not done anything.

The Kerala chief minister also has not done anything.

Is Kappan getting his diabetic medicines regularly? You were worried because he was diabetic.

After he was moved to judicial custody, things are okay. Because they are given food only two times a day, sugar level is normal. He gets his medicines also.

But ever since the new allegations of his links with SIMI came, he has not called me. When we spoke last Friday, he said he would call the next day, but I am yet to get a call from him. I am very worried now.

IMAGE: Raihana with her husband Sidhique Kappan. Photographs: Kind courtesy Raihana Sidhique

This has become your fight now....

I am fighting for him because I know he is innocent. And all the journalists who still stand by him also know what kind of a person he is.

I am fighting because there is this 90-year-old Umma who has been crying all her waking hours for her son.

I am fighting for my three children.

We are an ordinary family, we are not terrorists.

You should come and see how harmoniously we live with our neighbours who are Hindus.

During the Sabarimala season, when the woman of the house could not cook food, we sent food from our house. That's the kind of relationship we have with our neighbours. And they call us religious fanatics.

From where do you get the courage to fight?

Is he not my husband? Who else will fight for him but me?

As he has not done anything wrong, I am sure he will get justice.

But unless all the journalists unite and fight for his release, I feel they will make him a terrorist and keep him there.

Now that things are dragging on endlessly, I am getting scared. I have not heard from him for a week, and I am all the more scared now.

I am crying so much that sometimes I feel my heart will explode and I will die.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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