Hathras case: Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan and three others were heading to Hathras to report on the alleged gang-rape of a woman – who died later in hospital – when they were arrested
A 5,000-page chargesheet has been filed by the Uttar Pradesh Police against Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan, who was arrested in October last year while travelling from Delhi to report on the aftermath of the alleged gang-rape and subsequent death in a Delhi hospital of a Dalit woman from UP’s Hathras.
Seven others, three of whom were arrested with Mr Kappan, and the others arrested later, also face charges under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA for alleged conspiracy to create communal tension.
Mr Kappan and three others were heading to Hathras to report on the alleged gang-rape of the woman – who died later in hospital – when they were arrested and charged under the anti-terror law. The UP Police said they acted on a tip about “suspicious people”.
In the FIR (First Information Report), the police used a section of the UAPA that deals with “raising funds for a terrorist act”. Mr Kappan has since been in jail in Mathura.
“We have not yet received a copy of the chargesheet. It’s about 5,000 pages. Once we officially get a copy, we will study it and decide our course of action,” said defence lawyer Madhuvan Dutt Chaturvedi told reporters outside the court in Mathura.
The UP administration’s handling of the Hathras case was widely criticised. The police were accused of being slow to respond to the woman’s complaint. After she died in hospital of her wounds, the police also controversially took away her body, drove to her village and cremated it at 2 am in the absence of her family.
The state administration’s treatment of journalists and leaders who tried to visit Hathras, was similarly criticised.
The Central Bureau of Investigation later took over the case and filed a chargesheet against four accused. That trial is going on in a court in Hathras.
In December last year, the UP government told the Supreme Court that Mr Kappan claimed he was working as a journalist in a Kerala-based daily, but that newspaper shut down two years back.
The UP government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court claiming Mr Kappan was going to Hathras under the “garb of journalism” with a “very determined design” to create caste divide and disturb law and order situation.
The Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has asked the Supreme Court for an independent inquiry by a retired judge to determine the facts of the alleged “illegal arrest and detention” of Mr Kappan. The KUWJ claimed that the Uttar Pradesh Police made an “absolute false and incorrect statement” that Mr Kappan is the office secretary of the Popular Front of India (PFI).