Hathras case: UP Police arrests Kerala scribe, three others enroute victim's village; journalists' body moves SC

The police claimed that all four people had 'links' with the Popular Front of India. However, Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) has said that journalist Siddique Kappan had gone to Hathras to cover the present situation in the area

FP Staff October 06, 2020 23:26:44 IST
Hathras case: UP Police arrests Kerala scribe, three others enroute victim's village; journalists' body moves SC

Representational image of Uttar Pradesh Police. AFP

Uttar Pradesh Police arrested four men, including a Delhi-based journalist working for a Malayalam news portal, on Monday night over alleged links to the Popular Front of India (PFI), while they were on their way to Hathras district, as per reports.

The arrests took place hours after the Uttar Pradesh Police alleged that a 'conspiracy' was afoot to 'tarnish' the image of the Yogi Adityanath government by fomenting caste-based tensions over the gangrape and subsequent death of a 19-year-old Dalit woman in Hathras. As many as 19 FIRs were lodged across the state, of which six cases were filed at different police stations in Hathras.

The four men with suspected PFI links were taken into custody at Math toll plaza in Mathura after a tip that suspicious people were heading to Hathras from Delhi, news agency PTI quotes the police as saying.

The four have been identified as Atiq-ur Rehman from Muzaffarnagar, Siddique Kappan from Malappuram, Masood Ahmed from Bahraich and Alam from Rampur, reported NDTV. Their mobile phones, laptop computer, and some literature, which could have an impact on peace and order, were seized, officials said.

During interrogation, it came to light that they had links with PFI and its associate organisation Campus Front of India (CFI), police claimed.

According to the NDTV report, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) in a statement said that Kappan, who is also the secretary of the organisation, "had gone to Hathras on Monday to cover the present situation in the area".

Terming the arrest as illegal and unconstitutional, the journalists' body filed a habeas corpus petition in the Supreme Court, seeking his immediate production and release from "illegal detention".

The plea states that the arrest was made in violation of the mandatory guidelines laid down by apex court and with the sole intention of obstructing the discharge of duty by a journalist. The petition alleged that family members or colleagues have not been informed of his arrest.

The KUWJ also wrote a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath demanding Kappan's release.

"We understand that he was taken into police custody by Uttar Pradesh police from Hathras toll plaza. Our efforts and the efforts by some advocates based in Delhi to contact him were not successful. The Hathras Police Station and the State Police department has not provided any information so far on taking him into custody," NDTV quoted the letter as saying.

KP Reji, president of the KUWJ state committee in Thiruvananthapuram, also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking Kappan's immediate release, as per a report in The Hindu.

Editor of news portal Azhimukham, KN Ashok said that Kappan was a regular contributor who covered many beats, including politics. Ashok told The Hindu that Kappan had sent a message on the morning of 5 October saying that he was going to cover Hathras.

"That is the only information we got from him,” Ashok said, adding that he was not informed by the police about Kappan's arrest.

Attempts to contact Kappan did not elicit any response, said Ashok adding that he got to know about Kappan's arrest at night.

As per The Hindu report, the police have not acknowledged that Kappan is a journalist. Further legal action will be taken after questioning the four, the police said.

Kappan has been reportedly linked to the PFI in the past as well but he had sent a legal notice to the people who had made the allegations.

PFI condemns arrests

As per The Hindu report, the PFI condemned the arrests and alleged that the UP government was targeting it to hide the failing law and order situation in the State. It also accused the Adityanath dispensation of  seeking to divert attention from the Hathras case by creating a “conspiracy theory.”

“Popular Front will not be intimidated by such tactics of suppression by the UP government. We demand the immediate release of the CFI leaders and journalist Siddique Kappan,” the report quotes PFI general secretary Anis Ahmed as saying.

Earlier this year, the UP government sought a ban on the Popular Front of India (PFI), accusing it of funding protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that took place across the country.

Hathras has been in the news after a 19-year-old woman was raped, allegedly by four upper-caste men, on 14 September in a village in the district and she succumbed to her injuries a fortnight later at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi.  Her hurried cremation in the dead of the night, allegedly without the parents' consent, further stoked outrage.

Amid mounting outrage and protests by the Opposition, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said "anarchist elements" are trying to trigger communal and caste violence in the state.

With inputs from PTI

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