A Driver, a Journo & 2 Activists: The 4 Men Arrested Near Hathras
Acting on a tip-off, the police intercepted a car at a toll plaza and took its four occupants into custody.
On Monday, 5 October, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested four people – Siddique Kappan, Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam, while they were on their way to Hathras from Delhi. The police claimed that acting on a tip-off, they intercepted a car at a toll plaza, after which the four occupants were interrogated and taken into custody.
On Wednesday, 7 October, the UP police charged them with sedition and Section 17 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which pertains to punishment for raising funds for a terrorist act.
The police said that during interrogation, it came to the fore that the four had links with the Popular Front of India (PFI) and its associate organisation Campus Front of India (CFI).
According to a statement by the police, mobile phones, laptop and some literature were reportedly seized from them.
Ansar Indori, a Human Rights Lawyer, representing the four accused, confirmed that they were on their way to meet the family in the alleged gang-rape and murder case in Hathras.
Now, who are these four men?
‘Kappan Went for Reporting’
Siddiquie Kappan, a freelance journalist based out of Delhi, was one of the detainees. He was on his way to Hathras for a ground report.
Kappan is also working as the secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists and is a regular contributor with the Malayalam website Azhimukham.
Azhimukham’s editor KN Ashokan told The Quint that Kappan had informed them on Monday morning that he would be going to Hathras for the ground report.
“He had texted me at the night about his plan to go to Hathras for reporting. He had said that he will leave early in the morning,” claims Ashokan.
Ashokan said that he assumed that Kappan must have left early in the morning and will be back by evening as Hathras is not very far from Delhi.
“I assumed that Kappan will come back and file the story by the evening. But he did not tell us about his travel plans. We didn’t hear from him till evening. Later, we got to know that he has been detained by the UP Police. We contacted Kappan’s family in Malappuram and are ready to provide legal aid, if needed,” Ashokan told The Quint.
When questioned about whether Kappan had any links with Popular Front of India (PFI), Ashokan said that: “Kappan had no such links with PFI.”
He further stated: “He had earlier officially informed us that he doesn’t have any links with PFI or any other organisation,” claims Ashokan.
Even the lawyer of the four accused said that Kappan has no links with PFI or CFI.
“Kappan has no links with CFI or PFI, he was merely going to Hathras for reporting. He took a lift from Atiq and Masood who were visiting Hathras to meet the family,” lawyer Ansar Indori said.
‘Alam Is a Driver, Not an Activist’
If lawyer Indori is to be believed, Alam is a driver and not connected to any outfit.
“On Monday, Atiq, Masood and Siddique were going to meet the Hathras victim’s family. Alam is a private driver who was dropping them to Hathras,” Ansar Indori told The Quint.
Atiq-ur Rahman is a national treasurer of the CFI and Masood Ahmed is its Delhi State Secretary, Indori added.
When asked about the alleged literature found with the accused, Indori told The Quint that: “Police should prove if any such insidious material was found with the accused; I haven’t seen any such evidence.”
Masood Ahmed is a student from Jamia Milia Islamia University and is studying LLB. He belongs to Bahraich district in Uttar Pradesh and is a student activist, whereas Atiq-ur Rahman is from Muzzaffarnagar and is a student activist, whereas, Alam is a driver is from Rampur, Indori told The Quint.
‘My Parents Don’t Know About the Arrests’
“Who isn’t an activist; I also go for protests,” said Ahmed’s brother Monish.
When questioned about Ahmed’s link with the CFI and the PFI, Monish said: “I don’t know about it. My brother is a student activist; he is preparing for government services. I don’t know why they have picked him up.”
Monish told The Quint that Ahmed was going to Hathras with Atiq-ur Rahman and Siddique Kappan. They hired Alam to drop them to Hathras.
Monish says that Ahmed met Rahman during a protest at Jantar Mantar.
On being asked about when Rahman and Ahmed met: “I don’t clearly remember; Rahman isn’t my friend,” Monish said.
“On Tuesday, the police said that they will release all four of them on the bond of Rs 2 lakh each. But today, I got to know through media that they have been booked under some other charge,” Monish claims.
“I haven’t told my parents about Ahmed. They will be worried about him. I am hopeful that he will be released soon. He hasn’t done anything wrong,” Monish said.
Monish claims that he doesn’t know Alam, he just knows that Alam is from Rampur.
Statement by the PFI
The PFI in its statement condemned the UP government: “The new rounds of allegation against Popular Front are nothing but an attempt by the Uttar Pradesh government to divert the attention away from its failure to handle the Hathras rape case. UP under Yogi has become a jungle-raj where law and order is completely collapsed. Earlier it was the minorities who felt unsafe in UP but now the Dalits and women are also unsafe in the state,” the statement read.
Confirming Rahman’s and Ahmed’s link with CFI: “Of the 4 arrested, 2 were leaders of a student’s organization CFI and another person Siddique Kappan is a journalist and secretary of the Kerala Union of Working Journalist.”
CFI National President Sajid told The Quint that Rahman and Ahmed are members of the organisation. Rahman is the National Treasurer, whereas, Masood Delhi is the state secretary.
“We don’t know about Alam and Kappan. Alam is a driver and Kappan is a journalist. They don’t have any links with the CFI,” Sajid claims.
When asked about whether the four accused had any literature as the police claimed, the CFI National President said: “Rahman and Ahmed just had their phones with them. Kappan had a laptop.”
Talking about links with the Hathras case, Sajid told The Quint: “We believe there is nothing; these are fabricated stories.”
Kerala Journalists’ Body Demands Kappan’s Release
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists on Tuesday, 6 October, filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court seeking Kappan’s immediate production before the court and release him from the illegal detention.
The Press Club of India also issued a statement demanding the release of Kappan.
“It is our apprehension that the Yogi Adityanath government, in line with its clearly stated conspiracy theory as an explanation for the tragic Hathras incident, will employ diversionary tactics to take the focus away from the many suspicious, possibly criminal, actions of its police and administration and the virtual silence of the political leadership on the Hathras tragedy. In these circumstances, our worry is that UP Police may not fight shy of using anti-terrorism provisions with which to charge the Kerala journalist,” the statement read.
The statement further read: “The arrest of Kerala journalist is the pointer that the regime in UP is a further illustration of ham-handed methods used to stop media from doing its work.”
Statement by the Mathura Police
Senior Superintendent of Police Gaurav Grover on Wednesday, 7 October, in a video released on the official twitter account of the Mathura Police, said: “The four accused were booked under FIR 199/2020 and were taken before the court. They have been sent to judicial remand. Further investigation is underway.”
The CFI is a student's organisation based in India. It is affiliated with the PFI. The Uttar Pradesh government has accused the organisation of “inciting violence” during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
In December 2019, the UP government sent a report to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) recommending a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI).
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