New Delhi: On Monday, while on their way to cover the present situation in Hathras district of Uttar Pradesh state where a young woman was allegedly gang-raped and murdered by four upper caste Hindu men, a Kerala based journalist identified as Siddique Kappan and three others were arrested by the UP police in Mathura and have been booked under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and sedition.
They were remanded to 14 days’ judicial custody by a local court in Mathura on Tuesday, a report by The Wire said.
An FIR has been lodged against them in the Mant police station, charging them under sections 124A (sedition), 153A (for promoting enmity between groups) and 295A (outraging religious feelings) of the IPC, sections 14 and 17 of UAPA, sections 65, 72 and 76 of the Information Technology Act.
On Tuesday, the Press Club of India (PCI) in its statement condemning the arrest of the journalist and demanding his immediate release, had said, “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.”
In the FIR, the sub-inspector accused the four of carrying pamphlets reading ‘Justice for Hathras Victim’ and moving towards the district to disrupt peace as part of a “big conspiracy”.
The three others arrested have been identified as Atiq-ur Rehman, Masood Ahmed and Alam. While Rehman and Ahmed are members of the Campus Front of India (CFI), the student wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI), Alam was driving the vehicle in which they were travelling to Hathras.
The PFI had said that “the UP Police is trying to divert the attention of the issue by creating a conspiracy theory”. According to a statement released by the organisation, “Such acts only show their nervousness due to the growing anger among the people of UP and rest of the country. The Popular Front will not be intimidated by such tactics of suppression by the UP govt.”
The UP police had claimed that the four men were stopped at a toll after they received information that some “suspicious people were on their way to Hathras from Delhi”.
According to a statement by the police, a laptop, their mobile phones and some literature, which ‘could have an impact on peace, and law and order in the state’, have been seized from them.
The police have alleged that the arrested persons received foreign funding to organise protests.