Nodeep Kaur is a 23-year-old Dalit woman whose parents are associated with a farmer’s union in Punjab. She hails from a family of activists, who have been part of several agitations against injustice. Her sister Rajveer Kaur is a PhD student at Delhi University’s Department of Punjabi and a member of Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch.
Nodeep Kaur, a youth labour rights leader and member of Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan.
Ms Nodeep started working at a bulb-making factory in Haryana’s Sonipat to financially support her family. She had also joined the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, which works for the workers’ rights in the Kundli Industrial Area (KIA), which lies just about three kilometres from the Singhu Delhi-Haryana border.
She joined the farmers’ protest at Singhu to air grievances about the non-payment of salaries and harassment by her employers. Her decision to join the protest and stand in solidarity with the farmers, against the Farm Bills 2020, led her employers to fire her without pay.
Nodeep, as described by her close ones, is a woman of undeterred spirit, constantly a part of the struggle, with a vision for complete equality and a society free from all sorts of oppression and exploitation, and this was the reason why she, and many others were arrested and jailed.
On 12th January 2021, Ms Nodeep was arrested by the Sonipat Police on charges of attempt to murder, rioting, and assault to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty under the Indian Penal Code, among others.
The Sonipat Police said that a police team had gone to Kundli Industrial Area that day after they received information about the alleged manhandling of management and staff of an industrial unit. They have also accused this group of attempting to extort money.
According to police, Ms Nodeep and her associates attacked the police with sticks, causing injuries to seven personnel. Following the incident, she was arrested, but her associates managed to escape.
The Sonipat Police shared images and videos of the alleged attack as well. In a press statement, they claimed that the police did not seek remand in the case. The accused was arrested, produced in court and sent to jail the same day within a few hours, it said. Under police custody, she was apparently accompanied by two women police personnel, it added.
Allegations of arbitrary use of power, torture, sexual assault and police brutality have also been levelled against the Sonipat Police. Responding to allegations of torture, the police said: “She did not raise the issue of assault by police officers either before the Medical Officer or the Chief Judicial Magistrate.”
“Thus, the allegations put forward by the accused or her lawyer seems to be an afterthought and the Police Department clearly negates the said allegation,” said the statement.
Her sister Rajveer Kaur had visited Nodeep in Karnal jail and saw that Nodeep had been hurt in her genitals. Rajveer also claimed that Nodeep has been assaulted in police custody.
Rajveer Kaur, Nodeep Kaur’s sister, appeals to the media.
In an interview with The Print, Rajveer Kaur said, “I met her (Nodeep) on 13 January when she told me that she was beaten by both male and female officers in her private parts. The Haryana Police got involved and attacked the protesting labourers on 12 January. There was no female officer present. My sister was beaten up there and then picked up and taken to the police station.”
She cleared that the workers at the factory were not goons who were trying to extort money, they were simply demanding the salary that was due to them by the owners. Contradictory to police claims, she further added that the violence that broke out was provoked by the police, and Nodeep was trying to ease the situation.
“They are workers in a factory demanding their salary. This is not extortion,” she said.
The young leader has been a champion of the labour rights agitation which runs parallel to the farmer protests. Her joining of the farmer’s protest was clearly a threatening show of unison against crony capitalists, who employed the state’s favourite instrument of oppression- the police.
The arrest of Nodeep Kaur is now a part of another alarmingly huge statistic. The number of youth leaders and dissenters that have been detained and tortured under various draconian acts has substantially increased since BJP came to power in 2015. This clearly shows that nothing scares the authoritarian state more than a generation of people who fight for democracy in every way, every day.
Sharjeel Imam, Dr Kafeel Khan, Anand Teltumbde, Safoora Zargar, Munawar Faruqui are just a few amongst the hundreds of leaders and dissenters who simply dared to speak of what they observed. And we all know of their fate. To those who still think this is a coincidence, its time to break out of the spell.
Political prisoners are a direct reflection of the prejudices the state holds. Read into the statistic, who is being arrested? What caste do they belong to? Are they Muslim, queer, communist?
When you see a pattern, do not look away.