It is a very small help in these dark times, says academic who stands as bail surety for Siddique Kappan

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Former acting Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma, 79, has agreed to stand surety for the Kerala-based journalist

Former acting Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma, 79, has agreed to stand surety for the Kerala-based journalist

“This is the minimum I can do as a concerned citizen in these dubious and dark times,” says 79-year-old former acting Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University Roop Rekha Verma, who has agreed to stand as surety to fulfil the Lucknow court’s conditions for Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan after he was granted bail by the Supreme Court in the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) case.

Even days after the Supreme Court granted bail to Mr. Kappan, it was difficult for his lawyers to find residents of Uttar Pradesh who could stand as surety for the jailed journalist.

Speaking to The Hindu, Ms. Verma said, “I reasoned in my mind that by standing as surety I am not doing something anti-government as government allegations will remain and Siddique Kappan will have to fight it out in the courts. I am not blocking anything; I am only helping him to come out of jail and fight it out. It is a very small help which in the dubious and dark times any concerned citizen must do without disturbing the legal process,”.

Ms. Verma, who taught at Lucknow University for almost 40 years. added, “Why does it happen in case by case under the present regime that someone is doing his duty and arrested on the charges of disturbing law and order and for treason and thereafter many new allegations prop up? My question is what were Enforcement Directorate [ED], National Investigation Agency and other agencies doing a minute before when Mr. Kappan was doing his journalistic duty and a minute after? Why does it happen case after case that the human rights action invites lots of other allegations which are very serious crimes, what are these agencies doing a day before,”.

Ms. Verma is associated with many social movements and has worked with women who were victims of domestic violence.

On September 9, the Supreme Court granted bail in the UAPA case to Mr. Kappan stating that “every citizen has the right to free expression”. Despite the bail, Mr. Kappan was not able to come out of jail as he is yet to get relief in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case lodged by the ED. The next hearing in the PMLA case is scheduled for September 23 in a Lucknow court.

Mr. Kappan, who is originally from Kerala, worked as a reporter for Malayalam news website Azhimukham and also held the post of secretary in Delhi Unit of Kerala Union of Working Journalists. He has been lodged in Uttar Pradesh jails since his arrest in October 2020 while he was on his way to Hathras to report on the incident of the gang rape and death of a Dalit girl. Mr. Kappan was booked under various Sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Information Technology Act apart from the PMLA by the law enforcement agencies.