As the farmers’ agitation continues to go forward relentlessly in the country, a 23-year-old Dalit labour activist Nodeep Kaur was arrested on January 12th 2021 and has been in police custody since then.
A member of Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS) Union, Nodeep Kaur joined farmers' protest at Singhu to air grievances about alleged non-payment of salaries and harassment by employers.
Until December 2020, this Punjabi girl worked at a bulb-making factory in the Kundli Industrial Area (KIA) in Sonepat, which lies just about three kilometres from the Singhu Delhi-Haryana border. It has been reported that when she decided to join the protest, she was fired without pay.
She was arrested from Singhu Border on January 12, and none of her family members knew where she was being taken to. Later it was revealed that she has been detained in Karnal jail.
Since her arrest, the young Dalit labourer has become the face of a labour rights campaign that has run parallel to the farmers’ protest.
The Haryana police have filed two FIRs against Nodeep Kaur in connection with alleged violence in KIA on 12 January, where the charges invoked include the non-bailable sections 307, 384 and 379 of the Indian Penal Code — attempt to murder, extortion and theft, respectively.
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.
Nodeep’s family and relatives are fighting for her justice and said that they will approach the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. Her lawyer also claimed that a medical examination has shown wounds on Kaur’s body and private parts.
Nodeep's alleged sexual assault in police custody was condemned and many took to Twitter to express their solidarity with the 23-year-old activist.
US Vice-President Kamala Harris’ niece and lawyer, Meena Harris, also tweeted about Kaur and demanded her release. Meena emphasised on the issue that Nodeep Kaur has been in custody for the last 20 days. She also claimed that Kaur is being “tortured and sexually assaulted” in police custody.
However, according to media reports, Sonipat police denied the allegations “being circulated on social media platforms about illegal detention and harassment”, and termed them an “afterthought”.
Police also 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.
(Edited by Anju Narayanan)