On 5 October 2020, the Uttar Pradesh police arrested the freelance journalist Siddique Kappan while he was on his way to report on the brutal gang-rape of a Dalit woman near the city of Hathras in Uttar Pradesh. He was booked for sedition and offences under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. On 15 February, the Supreme Court granted him five days of bail to meet his ailing mother, but he was not allowed to speak to the media. In recent months, Siddique’s health condition has been deteriorating, and on 21 April, he tested positive for COVID-19. That same day Kappan was taken to KM Medical College in Mathura for treatment, where he was kept chained to a bed and not allowed to use the toilet. On 29 April, the Supreme Court ordered that Siddique be transferred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi, where he was admitted the next day. The same day, Raihana Kappan, his wife, arrived in Delhi but was not allowed to meet her husband. On the night of 6 May, the Uttar Pradesh police took Siddique back to Mathura jail, without informing his family or his lawyer. At the time of publishing, the condition of Siddique’s health remained unclear.
On 7 May, Nabeela Paniyath, a multimedia editor at The Caravan, and Shahid Tantray, a multimedia reporter at The Caravan, spoke to Raihana about Siddique’s condition, the struggles her family has had to go through during his incarceration, and its fight for his release.
Nabeela Paniyath: When did you arrive in Delhi? Why did you need to come here?
Raihana Kappan: I reached here on the first [of May]. The Supreme Court had ordered to move my husband to AIIMS for treatment as he had fallen sick. The court had said that his family can visit. The Supreme Court was also informed that he had tested negative for COVID. So, I thought it was possible to meet him and take care of him.
As soon as I arrived on 1 May, I tried to meet him, but I wasn’t allowed to. The visiting time at AIIMS is between 4 and 6 pm. The evening of 2 May, my son, a friend of ours and I went to AIIMS to meet him. We could not get past the door of the ward, there were policemen outside the entrance. We told the police that we are Siddique’s wife and son, and that we just wanted to see him once. They denied us entry.
After a lot of pleading, they asked us for our ID cards. I had our Aadhar card with us. They took photographs of it and took it to the police inside the ward. When they asked for permission from the police inside, it was denied again. They returned and informed us that we can’t meet him. We pleaded with them for almost two and a half hours, that we just needed to see him and talk to him for a brief time, and we’ll leave. They told us it was not possible, and asked us to leave.