Police produce journalist Siddique Kappan and three others, suspected to have links with the Popular Front of ...Read More
has been a journalist for nine years, covering north India for a Malayalam-language news site. Masood Ahmed was preparing for his civil services exam; Atikur Rehman for his PhD. On Monday, the three of them, along with an embroiderer-turned-driver, Mohammad Alam, were on their way to Hathras to meet the gang-rape victim's family when they were detained at Mathura. Their families, away in Malappuram, Bahraich, Rampur and Muzaffarnagar, told on Friday they cannot understand how they were locked away as terror threats.
"He had never even been involved in a brawl. No criminal record. Suddenly, he gets booked for terror," said Atikur's brother Mateen Ahmed, a farmer from Muzaffarnagar. Mateen said Atikur had a congenital heart ailment and needed constant medical attention. "On October 1, he had gone to Delhi for treatment at AIIMS ... Four days after that, I got a call. He had been arrested." Back home, his wife worries, helplessly, about his heart problem.
A similar concern is "killing" Kappan's wife. "I am worried about his diabetes. Stress will make it worse," Rehanath told TOI through a translator. For an entire day, she had not known her husband had been arrested. "It was only on Tuesday that some friends told me." She could not make sense of what had happened. "Neither he nor anyone in our family has any political ties." For now, she is keeping it together for his 90-year-old mother and three children. "He is a journalist. If he was going to Hathras, it was to report," she said.
Masood's brother, Monis Khan, said he would have stopped them had he known they were travelling to Hathras. Monis lives in Noida, a younger brother is still studying, a sister is married and their father Shakil Ahmad runs a small lock and key repair shop in Bahraich. "We are simple people. He has never done anything illegal. We never saw him misbehave with anyone," he said. Masood cleared NET after a diploma in mass communication in 2016 and Masters in public administration from Jamia Millia Islamia last year. He was preparing for his PhD.
Driver Alam's mother, Naeem Jahan, 50, said she came to know about the arrests when some people came to her house in Rampur on Monday evening, asking about her son. "The next day, his photo was all over TV. Neighbours started asking." She and her husband, Laiyak Pehalwan, roll beedis for a living. Their son, she said, had moved to Delhi 10 years ago after trying his hand at embroidery. He got married in 2018 and lived in Delhi with his wife. "He was just taking passengers ... I don't even know where he is, how he is."
All four are now in a temporary prison, awaiting Covid-19 test results, after which they will be moved to the district jail in Mathura, a senior police official said. They have been charged with sedition and under the stringent UAPA, among other sections related to funds diversion, disturbing peace and tampering of evidence.
In Delhi, Campus Front of India, the student wing of
Popular Front of India
, said members Atikur and Masood, along with Kappan and Aalam, were arrested illegally. "The police's lies on 'sectarian violence', 'fundraising' and 'carrying dangerous literature' are baseless and nonsensical."
(With inputs from Pathikrit Chakraborty and Mohammad Ibrar)