Meet Kumar Sauvir, the journalist who stood up for Siddique Kappan

NB: All I can say is thank you Kumar. You restore our faith in humanity. You may be an atheist, but if there is a god, you have blessed us all by your act of grace. God bless you, and Siddique too who had gone to Uttar Pradesh to do his duty. DS

By Puja Awasthi

Sauvir is a Lucknow-based journalist who furnished the bail bond for Kappan’s release.

Kumar Sauvir and Siddique Kappan used to live over 2,000 kilometres apart and had never met. But when Kappan was released from a jail in Lucknow on Thursday, the first person he wanted to see was Sauvir.

“There were no words. Just the longest embrace,” said Sauvir.

Sauvir is a Lucknow-based journalist who furnished the bail bond for Kappan’s release. The bond is in the form of the ownership papers of a 9,000 square feet plot of agricultural land in Lucknow’s Bakshi ka Talab area, in Sauvir’s name.

In a state which has been notoriously unfriendly to journalists, Sauvir’s deed has been applauded by the media and civil society.

The 63-year-old Sauvir, however, does not see it as an act of bravery. He wrote on social media, “We are responsible, emotional social and sensitive creatures…our lives are about showing empathy to our fellow beings…to see the pain behind another’s tears and to wipe them off”.

Sauvir is a journalist of dry wit and sharp observations. For him, there are no holy cows. When he stood for elections for the state’s body of accredited journalists, he declared that he would get a ‘record number’ of low votes. And he did—for he has neither endeared himself to the bureaucracy nor the journalistic community because of his no holds barred approach.

“We live in an age of desperation. People seek a remedy for this desperation in the human acts of others. What they lack in courage, they make up for by praising others”, he said.

Sauvir has been a journalist for 42 years. His father, Siyaram Tripathi, worked in a senior editorial position at a prominent Hindi newspaper. “He would always talk about justice, and wallop me to teach me its lessons”, he said. Tripathi was a card holding member of the Communist Party of India, the secretary of the Indian Federation of Working Journalists and the general secretary of its state wing. Sauvir’s paternal grandfather had strong communist leanings. “I was fed fearlessness since I was a child”, said Sauvir.

Kappan was jailed in October 2020 when he was on his way to Hathras to report a gang-rape. Among the charges levied against him was the claim that he had received money from the Popular Front of India to foment trouble.

Well-known names in the legal and larger fraternity were scared to furnish bonds for him for fear of how the state government might react. Sauvir received calls from two old friends—both senior journalists—asking him to step in.

“There is such an atmosphere of fear that no Muslim was willing to stand in for Kappan. The larger intent was also to show that this was a matter of justice and that the journalistic fraternity was one when it came to that,” said Sauvir.

To Sauvir, an atheist, this was an act of dharma- one that underlined his identity as a sanatani.

“To be a true sanatani, you have to be on the side of justice. I did just that,” he said.

Sauvir first submitted his papers in court on January 3. Five days later he was asked to appear before the district judge. One of the questions put to him was: “Do you know Siddique Kappan”. Sauvir’s answer, “I do, as a journalist- we share the same dharma”.

By mid-January, Sauvir, a father to two daughters, had suffered a brain stroke and partial paralysis—the effects of which are yet to wear off. While he was admitted to the hospital, the police started to repeatedly call him for verification. He told them about his condition, and offered them his passport, Aadhar card, press accreditation card; but none of them made a difference. They insisted he would have to appear in person.

On February 1, Sauvir appeared before the judge again. This time he was asked what he knew about the person from whom he had purchased the land. To Sauvir this and some of the other questions appeared completely irrelevant.

“People must not be chastised or harassed for doing a good deed”, said Sauvir in reference to the general workings of the state’s bureaucracy, government and police.

Kappan would have been released on Wednesday, but the jail officials were in a hurry to get him back to jail without waiting for a copy of the remand papers.

This afternoon when Kappan finally walked out of jail, Sauvir stood waiting for him.

No words were needed. The silence of the embrace said it all.

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