Who Is Nodeep Kaur – A 23 Year Old Dalit Activist Has Been In Jail Since 12 January And Whose Release Is Being Demanded By Twitterati Including Kamala Harris’s Niece.
The Womb TEAM
By Shivangi Sharma
NEW DELHI :- “This is not just farmer’s struggle, but the struggle of labourers and students as well. Till we don’t come together, neither is the farmer going to be successful nor anybody else.”
These are the words of Punjabi Dalit labour right’s activist Nodeep Kaur. Nodeep belongs to Punjab’s Muktsar and is a member of Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS), a union of workers and farmers active in the movement against the recently brought farm laws. She was arrested by Haryana police on 12 January for serious offences including extortion and attempt to murder. Nodeep’s sister Rajveer has told news agencies that she is picked by the police on false charges and has been assaulted in the custody. The family is approaching the Punjab & Haryana High Court as Session’s Court in Sonipat has denied her bail in view of gravity of offences.
Nodeep joined the protest against the newly brought farm laws in November where she mobilized the workers and farmers raising the slogan ‘kisan mazdoor ekta zindabad’. After her high school education, she started working in a factory in Kundli because of financial hardships at home and became a member of MAS where she along with other members has been fighting against the harassment of workers by Kundli Industrial Association (KIA). A video of Nodeep has gone viral where she explains that workers and farmers are inseparable. Opposing the privitisation of farming, she says “The government is selling us, our work, our livelihood to make money for themselves.” Her sister has informed that she has been sacked from her job after she joined the protest.
Nodeep’s family has stated that she has been tortured and sexually assaulted in the police custody. As reported in The Wire, Nodeep’s lawyer has informed that according to medical reports, there are wounds on her body and private parts. The police although has denied these allegations. They stated that “she did not disclose/mention anything about any assault by police officials” to the Chief Judicial Magistrate, before whom she was presented prior to being taken to Karnal jail.”
Custodial torture is a shameful public secret which is rampant in our justice system. No safeguards provided by law has curbed the menace especially to political prisoners. In the current political scenario, minorities are being oppressed not just by the dominant class of public but the state as well and Nodeep’s identity as a Dalit female puts her at a higher risk of the same. In a country governed by rule of law that provides Constitutional protection from torture at the hand of authorities, police especially in politically coloured matters easily get away with their crimes behind bars. It’s a shame that offences that are considered aggravated when committed by public servants are not even brought to the floor of courts for trial let alone be punished for it. They are not just protected by the state but are instructed to use illegal means to silence the voices against them.
As the Kaur family prepares to approach the high court for bail, there is a social media uproar asking to release Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar who is another member arrested from MAS. There are three FIRs against Nodeep that include offences under sections 148, 149 (rioting, armed with deadly weapons), 384 (extortion), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 307 (attempt to murder). One of the FIRs has been registered by Haryana police officer, another factories under KIA and another is a private complaint. As told by Kaur family, Nodeep’s organisation MAS has been fighting against the industry association at Kundli on issues of unpaid dues, exploitation of women workers and harassment of workers amongst any other things. The KIA has prepared a Quick Response Team whose work is to intimidate workers from organising protests. They have also physically beaten the workers and harassed female workers against which the police had refused to register a complaint.
Rajveer, Nodeep Kaur’s sister that she believes the attack on her sister is not just because of her activism but also because she is Dalit woman. The fact that it took almost a month for her story to gain any attention speaks for itself about the internalised discrimination. But she is confident that they will prove all the allegations against her false. She very proudly says “Nodeep Kaur comes from a family of fiercely politically active women. Our caste status and our economic deprivation taught us how to fight for our rights since our childhood. Nodeep is no different, she is a fighter.”
Nodeep Kaur’s release has now attracted international attention with author and lawyer, Meena Harris, who is also the niece of US VP Kamala Harris, tweeting that Kaur has allegedly been subjected to police custody.
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