New Delhi: A ‘secret workshop’ in Kerala, foreign funding, 55 witnesses and literature from a banned organisation — these are some of the things presented as evidence in the 5,000-page charge sheet filed against Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan and seven others by the Uttar Pradesh Police.
A five-member team of UP Police’s Special Task Force (STF) filed the charge sheet in a Mathura court on 3 April against Kappan, Atiq-ur-Rahman, Masood Ahmed, Alam, K.A. Rauf Sharif, Mohammad Danish, Ansad Badruddin and Firoz Khan that accuses them of sedition and allegedly attempting to incite violence in the state.
Kappan was arrested on 5 October 2020, along with Rahman, Ahmad, and Alam, while he was on his way to Hathras to report on the alleged gang rape and death of a Dalit woman. It notes that when the accused were arrested, the police seized 1,717 printed papers, six smartphones and a laptop from them.
The charge sheet has been filed under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, etc) and 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and the Information Technology Act.
It also lists 55 witnesses, of which over 40 are police personnel, and relies on electronic evidence.
Furthermore, Kappan’s WhatsApp data and mobile location and Sharif’s statement has been cited to claim that a ‘secret workshop’ was organised by Kerala-based radical organisation Popular Front of India (PFI), in September last year.
According to the charge sheet, it was in this workshop that the accused were asked to commit violent acts under the guise of any criminal, communal and class conflict in Uttar Pradesh. It added that this was done after attempts to create communal disharmony through protests against Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens failed in the state.
The court has set 1 May as the next date for hearing the case.
SIMI literature, foreign funding
The UP Police’s charge sheet alleges that the accused were receiving funding from foreign sources, including Muscat, and were on their way to Hathras on the directives of the PFI.
The charge sheet alleges that Kappan received Rs 25,000 in his bank account on 15 September last year and Rs 20,000 a day before he was arrested, from the radical organisation.
Similar cash deposits were made to the bank accounts of some of the other accused, the police said.
They also claimed to have seized explosives from Ansad Badruddin and Firoz Khan, who were arrested from Lucknow in February, on terror charges.
The charge sheet cites certain documents obtained from Kappan’s laptop as well. These include “an article written in support of terrorist Gulzar Ahmed Wani”, a video clip made with a photo of the Hathras victim’s cremation, several write-ups on the Delhi riots, and literature on the ideology of banned terrorist organisation, SIMI (Students Islamic Movement of India).
Kappan’s mobile data has been cited to allege that the authorities have obtained incriminating chats between him and several PFI leaders.
‘Accused part of PFI, evidence shows intent to cause riots’
The charge sheet also claimed that, among other things, the papers seized from the accused detailed steps that should be taken during riots to ensure that rioters are not identified. This, it said, showed their criminal intent to cause riots.
The police also noted that the evidence collected so far shows that the accused were being sent to Hathras as part of a larger conspiracy to create “a feeling of dissatisfaction among the Dalits”, inducing them to indulge in class struggle and provoking violence.
Masood Ahmed, it said, has been posed as “an aggressive member of the PFI who brainwashes young boys into committing violent riots”.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Danish, also an accused in the Delhi riots case, and his relative Alam, a taxi driver, has also been chargesheeted as an accused in this case.
According to the charge sheet, Alam bought a taxi on 24 September 2020 — days before his arrest — by paying Rs 2.25 lakh in cash, aided by PFI and the co-accused.
While he was an OLA driver, he was driving along with the other accused to Hathras on the day that they were arrested. This, the charge sheet noted, proves that he was a part of the conspiracy.
K.A. Rauf Sharif, national general secretary of Campus Front of India (CFI), the student wing of the PFI, has also been named as an accused. The charge sheet alleged that Sharif was using a sim card with a fake name for a bank account, income tax registration and social media.
It also cites content seized from PFI’s Delhi office, which was “communally sensitive” and had the potential to “instigate religious sentiments among Muslims”. The UP STF had conducted searches at PFI’s Shaheen Bagh office in February this year.
Habeas corpus pending for 6 months
A day after Kappan’s arrest on 5 October last year, the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) had filed a habeas corpus petition, challenging his custody.
The petition argued that the arrest was illegal and unconstitutional and contended that Kappan’s detention violates his fundamental rights under articles 14 (right to equality), 19 (freedom of speech and expression) and 21 (right to life) of the Constitution.
However, this habeas corpus has been pending before the apex court for over six months now, along with his regular bail application that was filed more than five months ago.
He was granted a five-day interim bail to meet his ailing 90-year-old mother, earlier in February.
Meanwhile, the accused have filed an application in a Mathura court, seeking a direction to drop all proceedings in the case in absence of a prosecution sanction against them.