SC plea today, journalist’s family asks: Aren’t we citizens?


Written by Shaju Philip
, Manish Sahu
| Lucknow, Thiruvananthapuram |

November 16, 2020 4:05:32 am





Kappan’s wife Raihana and their children. (Express photo)

Seven days after his arrest, Republic TV Editor-in-chief Arnab Goswami obtained interim bail from the Supreme Court in an alleged suicide abetment case. Forty-one days after his arrest, another journalist is still waiting for justice from the country’s highest court.

It’s a traumatic wait, says his family.

“After hearing that Arnab Goswami was granted bail, I am forced to think that my husband was denied due justice. Since the arrest, the court and jail authorities have not allowed us to even meet him. We haven’t heard anything about him, this is terrible. We have approached the judiciary and the government at various levels, but justice is yet to come our way. Are we not citizens of this country?’’ asks Raihana, 37, wife of Siddique Kappan, a Delhi-based journalist who has been jailed in UP’s Mathura.

On October 5, Kappan, who works with Malayalam news website Azhimukham, was arrested in Mathura while on his way to Hathras where a 19-year-old Dalit woman had been allegedly assaulted and gangraped leading to her death in a Delhi hospital. On October 6, a habeas corpus plea was filed by the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) in the Supreme Court — the next hearing is on Monday.

UP Police have alleged that Kappan, 41, and three members of the Campus Front of India (CFI), who were travelling with him, were part of a “conspiracy” to inflame religious enmity over the Hathras rape, and booked them on various charges, including under the stringent UAPA and sedition.

But for Delhi-based Kappan’s family in Kerala’s Malappuram, the bail granted to Goswami has served as a grim reminder of the wait.

“I feel that even the judiciary has abandoned us. There is no equitable distribution of justice. Justice is not for all, only for some. How did things move so fast in the case of Arnab Goswami?’’ says Raihana.

On November 11, during the hearing in which the apex court granted interim bail to Goswami, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Maharashtra, mentioned the arrest of Kappan. Sibal said the Supreme Court had been approached under Article 32, only to be directed to the lower court.

Kappan moved to Delhi nine years ago to work for Kerala-based news outlets, and is the sole breadwinner of the family. He is also secretary of the KUWJ’s Delhi unit.

“The charges against my husband are baseless. He had no money to hire a taxi to cover the Hathras incident. He had told friends to alert him if anyone was going there. That was how he happened to join the three others who were arrested along with him,’’ she says.

According to Raihana, Siddique’s 90-year-old mother Khadeeja has not yet been informed about the arrest. “We told her that Siddique is in Delhi and will come home soon. We are lucky that she has symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Whenever she asks about him, we tell her that he had called the previous night when she was asleep,’’ she says.

Raihana says she has been shuttling between the offices of various political parties seeking their intervention for the release of her husband. “I have met several political leaders. All have offered help, but also said that the case is in Uttar Pradesh and they cannot do anything. I am shattered, but determined to fight for our three children,’’ she says. Kappan and Raihana have three children, aged 17, 12 and 7.

Last week, Raihana sought the intervention of the Kerala Chief Minister’s Office for her husband. A CMO official said the government has directed the state’s resident commissioner in Delhi to look into the incident. “We have limitations. The journalist’s family is also aware of that. But we are monitoring the developments,’’ said the official.

Sanjay Garg, Kerala’s Resident Commissioner in Delhi, said, “When the incident (arrest) happened, I was asked to find out the status of the issue. What else can I do? I don’t have any jurisdiction in this issue, which is being addressed by Uttar Pradesh police.’’

In Mathura, meanwhile, members of a Special Task Force (STF) interrogated Kappan and the three others last week after obtaining their custody for 48 hours.

The bail application of the three accused, who were arrested with Kappan, has been rejected by a local court in Mathura. Advocate Madhuban Dutt Dwivedi, who represented the three, said: “Kappan’s bail application was not moved because the habeas corpus is still pending in Supreme Court.”

According to court records, a case was lodged at the Maant police station in Mathura against Kappan and the three others on various charges, including under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, and IPC sections 124-A (sedition), 153-A (promoting enmity between groups on ground of religion, race, etc) and 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings). They were sent to judicial custody by a Mathura court.

The four were also booked in another case lodged at Chandpa police station in Hathras on various charges, including sedition.

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