Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan was discharged from the AIIMS hospital in New Delhi and was taken back to the Mathura jail in Uttar Pradesh in a secretive manner without informing his family and lawyer, his wife Raihanath said to Maktoob on Thursday.
Kappan, who was identified COVID-19 positive, was shifted to AIIMS hospital after the Supreme Court directed the UP government to ensure him better treatment at a government hospital in Delhi. Following the order, he got shifted to AIIMS hospital on 30 April.
Risking the COVID-19 threat, Kappan’s wife Raihanath and elder son came to Delhi, all way from Kerala leaving her two children and 90-year-old ailing mother. They reached Delhi on 1 May around 1.15 pm and tried contacting the hospital authorities, with the help of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) members, to let her meet her husband. On 2 May, Raihanath and her elder son went to the AIIMS hospital around 4 pm.
“We reached in front of the ward and the policeman who is guarding the ward stopped us. I told him that I came a long way from Kerala just to meet my husband. I will return after talking to Siddique,” Raihanath told Maktoob. The police officer took the photographs of Raihanath’s and her son’s Aadhar card and went inside the ward. Later he returned and denied the permission stating the prison rule that the prisoners who are undergoing treatments cannot meet relatives or lawyers outside the prison. Raihanath waited at the hospital till 6 pm and later returned to her acquaintance’s home.
Since then, Raihanath tried many ways to meet Siddique Kappan at the hospital. KUWJ members contacted the AIIMS director and hospital superintendent but they replied that they have strict order from UP police asking not to allow anybody to meet Kappan.
On 4 May, Siddique Kappan’s lawyer Wills Mathews filed an urgent application to the superintendent of Mathura jail requesting him to give orders to the Director of AIIMS hospital and the police constables guarding Kappan to permit Raihanath and her son to meet Kappan during the visitor’s time between 4 pm and 6 pm. The lawyer alleged that none of the family members and he was not aware of the progress of Kappan’s medical treatment. The superintendent replied that “there is no provision in the UP jail manual which empowers the superintendent of the jail to allow the lawyer, prisoner’s wife or relatives to meet with the prisoner who is admitted in a hospital which is situated outside the jail”.
Following this, Raihanath approached the Mathura court seeking to issue orders to the jail superintendent of Mathura jail and the Director of AIIMS to grant her permission to meet her ailing husband on an urgent basis.
“I even wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court stating that we are not aware of my husband’s present medical condition or the kind of treatment he has been receiving at AIIMS,” Raihanath said.
“We have been waiting for the reply since May 5,” she added.
Meanwhile, Raihanath had to shift to another acquaintance’s place as her host had to go back to Kerala.
Raihanath got to know about her husband’s discharge around 10.30 pm on 6 May.
“They discharged him without informing me or his lawyer. We are assuming that he was taken to Mathura jail. It can only be confirmed after talking to the jail superintendent,” she told Maktoob over phone.
“I am worried about his health conditions. He has diabetes, heart ailment, blood pressure and bodily injure. We all know how he was treated at the Mathura hospital,” Raihanath shared her concern.
She was referring to the inhumane treatment Siddique Kappan faced inside the KM medical college in Mathura. Kappan got admitted to the KM Medical College hospital in Mathura on 21 April after he got diagnosed with COVID-19. The jail authorities shared the news with his lawyer. On 20 April, he had collapsed in the Mathura central jail and sustained injuries.
“For many days he had a fever and was unable to eat properly. The food provided by the prison was causing him diarrhea. So he survived with cucumber and curd. On top of it, he was fasting also. Eventually, he collapsed in the prison and got injuries in his face and head,” Raihanath said.
She alleged that the jail authorities failed to inform her about his health condition.
On 24 April, Raihananth got a call from Kappan. “He told me that he was chained to the bed in the hospital. He was not allowed to walk. He was unable to take food and was not allowed to go to the toilet for at least four days. They provided him a bottle to urinate,” Raihanath said. While disconnecting the call, Kappan asked her to request the authorities to shift him back to the jail.
As Kappan’s life was in extreme danger, Raihanath wrote a letter to the Chief Justice of India NV Ramana seeking an immediate intervention in the matter. KUWJ also filed a petition in the Supreme Court on 22 April, requesting to shift Siddique Kappan to AIIMS or the Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi.
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 Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India NV Ramana, Justice Surya Kant, and AS Bopanna. The court disposed habeas corpus petition and gave liberty to Kappan to seek appropriate legal remedies for bail. The bench also directed the UP government to shift him to a government hospital in Delhi and sent him back to Mathura jail, after his recovery.
On 27 April, the UP government filed an affidavit in front of the apex court saying that Kappan’s RT-PCR test showed a COVID negative test and that he will be taken back to jail. If the UP government’s claim is true, then nothing is preventing Raihanath from meeting Kappan.
Siddique Kappan was arrested on 5 October 2020, along with three Muslim youths including a cab driver, while he was on his way to Hathras to report on the gang rape and death of a Dalit woman. A five-member team of Uttar Pradesh Police’s Special Task Force (STF) filed a charge sheet against him and seven others in a Mathura court on 3 April, accusing them of sedition and allegedly attempting to incite violence in Uttar Pradesh.
Ashfaque EJ is an independent journalist from Kerala.