On February 6, the arrest of Nodeep Kaur hit the limelight when U.S.-based lawyer Meena Harris talked in support of this labour rights activist. It sparked waves of debates on social media about her arrest. Ms Harris in her tweet also talked about the allegations of sexual assault and police brutality on Nodeep. Nodeep Kaur was arrested on January 12th on allegations of murder, rioting, and assaulting to prevent a public servant from performing his duties under the Indian Penal Code. With still in police custody, she was also denied bail by the local court on Feb 2nd.
This is what Meena Harri’s had to say.
But who is Nodeep Kaur?
A 23-year-old Dalit woman, Nodeep Kaur belongs to a family of activists in Punjab., where her parents are linked with a farmers’ union. Her sister Rajveer Kaur is a PhD student at Delhi University’s Department of Punjabi and a member of Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch.
Ms Nodeep started working at a factory in Haryana’s Sonipat, post lockdown, to look out for her family’s financial needs. She also actively became a part of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, which supports the cause of workers’ rights in the Kundli Industrial Area. She also extended her support to the farmers’ agitation.
In a tweet, her sister Ms Rajveer said that Ms Nodeep has a vision for complete equality and a society free from all sorts of oppression and exploitation. She also reiterated that this was the main reason why she and many others were put behind bars.
Why was Nodeep arrested?
On January 12, 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 claimed that on receiving information about the alleged manhandling of management and staff of an industrial unit, the police team had gone to Kundli Industrial Area. The police then said that on reaching the venue, 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 police team in a press conference talked about how the accused was put behind bars within a few hours of being arrested and being produced at the court. The statement also mentioned the presence of tw0 women officers when the arrest was made
However, her sister Rajveer remarked about these allegations being false and even talked about the absence of woman police during the arrest.
She told SabRang, “I met her (Nodeep) on January 13 only and realised she has been subjected to police violence, including assault on her genitals that can be termed sexual violence... They (Police) accuse her of extortions. I ask, will extortion be for mere Rs 5,000? Will extortion be done by holding a protest? They have accused her under 307 IPC? The policeman is giving interviews saying Nodeep Kaur of Punjab is extorting money for labourers. These are all fake charges. They are framing her as if my sister attacked the police station. She was the one who was beaten and dragged from there.”
Both Rajveer and their lawyer said that the medical reports to confirm injury in her private parts.
In response to allegations of assault, the police remarked, “She did not raise the issue of assault by police officers either before the Medical Officer or the Chief Judicial Magistrate.” The statement further added, “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.”
Her advocate, Amit Srivastava, too alleged that she was illegally detained and sexually assaulted. He talked about Nodeep being targeted for raising the voice of dissent and supporting the cause of workers. However, he said that he was unaware of her statement before the Chief Judicial Magistrate.
Nodeep’s arrest gaining national and international support support
Several Dalit, Ambedkarite activists, and people vocal about the farmers’ protests spoke about the injustice behind Nodeep’s arrest and demanded her release. They are working towards bringing attention to Nodeep's arrest and custodial violence she has faced in Haryana jail.
Ravinder Singh of the Khalsa Aid, Instagram poet Rupi Kaur and environmental activist Licypriya Kangujam also tweeted on this issue.