“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,” says Nodeep’s elder sister, Rajvir Kaur, who is pursuing her PhD from Delhi University and is herself involved in activism.
Nodeep, 24, a Dalit labour rights activist and member of Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS), one of the many worker unions protesting with the farmers against the government’s new laws, has been in jail for over 20 days. She was arrested from the Singhu border on 12 January and her bail was rejected on 2 February.
Her sister claimed that Nodeep was arrested on false charges and thrashed by Haryana police on her private parts.
“When I went to meet her at Karnal jail a day after she was arrested, she had told me that she was beaten up brutally by male police officers and had injury marks on her private parts. We had immediately asked for a medical test to be done, the report of which will be submitted in court. We still have no clue what happened to that report.”Rajvir Kaur, Nodeep’s Elder Sister
SP Jashandeep Singh Randhawa has denied Rajvir’s allegations of sexual assault on her sister and called them “baseless.”
“Nodeep Fought For Rightful Wages, Was Charged With Extortion, Attempt to Murder”
"A lot of labourers who understand corporate and State repression had joined in hands with the farmers' protest in December, Nodeep's group was one of them," says Rajvir as she recalls how her younger sister was asked to resign from the factory she worked in because she was a part of the agitation.
Nodeep was working part-time in a factory in the Kundli industrial area since the lockdown lifted to arrange funds for her future education. This is how she joined the labour union and was actively fighting for unduly withheld wages.
“On 28 December, when she and other members of MAS had gone to demand for their pending wages, the protesters were fired at. The police, had instead, filed a counter FIR on the protesters. There was another protest held on 12 January after which Nodeep was targetted, arrested and charged with attempt to murder and extortion,” Rajvir said.
“Fighting for your pending wages is not extortion.”
On 12 January, after the members of MAS were stopped by police, Nodeep was accused of leading the group of 50-60 men in the FIR. Rajvir says, “After they barged into the MAS tent on 12 January and arrested her, there was no information given to the family members of her whereabouts till late that night when we found out from the police control room that she was sent to Karnal jail.”
In a video shared by poet Rupi Kaur of an earlier interview of Nodeep, she can be heard saying, “ “The fight is against privatisation and corporatisation of our lands and our factories. Labourers and farmers have to join hands, if they want to win this fight.”
‘Our Conditions Force Us to Protest For Our Rights’
Kundli industrial area accommodates more than 2 lakh migrant workers from various parts of the country including UP, Bihar and Punjab and belonging from particularly marginalized communities like Dalits, Muslims, landless peasants or poor peasants etc.
Nodeep is a native of Muktsar district in Punjab where their mother also works actively as part of Punjab Khet Union. Even my mother was jailed once when she fought for women who were exploited by upper caste land owners.
“Our conditions force us to protest for our rights.”Rajvir Kaur, Nodeep’s Elder Sister
Rajvir has been fighting for her sister's release and attention of human rights organisation on the matter since the past 20 days. "
“Nodeep has attended some protests with me too. I am a part of Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Sangathan and when she was living with me in Delhi for a while, she had attended a couple of agitations like that against the arrest of anti-CAA protesters, Devangana Kalita and Natasha Narwal.”
Rajvir says the silence of the mainstream media and even the civil society on Nodeep's arrest has much to do with her caste and economic background. "If you belong to a privileged caste and class, any injustic against you evoke more sympathy. If you fight for labour rights or rights of Dalit and Adivasi women, that often doesn't affect you so much."