An event to express solidarity with UAPA accused ‘journalist’ Siddique Kappan has been called off. According to reports, the organisers themselves called off the program that was supposed to be held at Kozhikode Town Hall on Wednesday evening. The organisers of the event cited a BJP complaint and a police report suggesting the possibility of law-and-order issues as the reason for cancelling the event.
Police sources, however, refuted the claims confirming that there were no instructions from the authorities to deny permission for the event. The organisers had voluntarily cancelled the programme, they added.
Moreover, reports from Kozhikode suggest that the elected peoples’ representatives withdrew from the programme, hence the authorities cancelled it.
The event ‘Freedom of Expression Protection Meeting’ was being organised by a group of ‘activists’ working under the banner Pauravakasha Vedhi (Forum for Citizen’s Rights). Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal, a leader of the Indian Union Muslim League, a Congress ally, that has ties with Jammat-e-Islami and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), both accused by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of spreading radicalism in Kerala, was scheduled to inaugurate the event.
The event was being held to show solidarity with Siddique Kappan, the terror-accused journalist with PFI links, after he was released on bail on September 9, after spending 2 years in jail. Notably, the Supreme Court had granted him bail to Kappan on the condition that he deposits his passport and marks regular attendance at the police station as he was released on bail after 2 years.
Notably, Siddique Kappan was arrested by the UP Police on October 5, 2020, while he was proceeding to Hathras case where a 19-year-old Dalit woman had died after a strangulation attempt. He was arrested along with three other persons, under stringent sections of UAPA and sedition charges for attempting to create a caste conflict in the state amidst the Hathras case controversy.
As per reports, besides Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) leader Munavvar Ali Shihab Thangal, Lok Sabha member MK Raghavan, MLAs KK Rema, P. Ubaidulla, and Kappan’s wife Raihanath Kappan and daughter Mehnaz Kappan were among those listed as speakers at the event.
NP Chekutty, a member of the Pauravakasha Vedhi, was quoted by The Telegraph as saying that an officer from the police special branch spoke to him on Wednesday morning and cited the possibility of law and order issues at the venue. “I got a call from a special branch officer who said there could be law-and-order issues. He even asked us to apply for police security. We (the organisers) then took a call to cancel the event not wanting to start another controversy,” he said.
“It is a tragic situation that well-meaning citizens aren’t even allowed to organise to uphold basic rights like free speech,” he added.
Reportedly, Kozhikode district president of BJP VK Sajeevan had addressed a news conference against the event on Tuesday saying that the decision to hold the meeting would challenge law and order and the ongoing probe by the NIA into anti-national activities. The BJP district leader also asked the organisers to cancel the event because it could give a boost to the anti-national forces. They had asked the authorities at the Kozhikode Town Hall not to allow such a programme to take place on its premises. They had petitioned the revenue and police chiefs not to allow such a programme.