Why was Dalit labour rights activist, Nodeep Kaur, arrested from Singhu Border?

Her sister alleges Nodeep was, framed, arrested and assaulted in custody because she spoke up for the rights of labourers and was actively supporting the farmers movement

The Kisan Andolan, one of the biggest farmers movements, has grown into a global phenomenon, and has been supported by all, including labourers at the Singhu Border, even as the state powers have tried various ways to diffuse, dilute, defame the solidarity it has gathered.

One of the groups sitting in solidarity with the dissenting farmers are those working at Kundli Industrial Area. Many of them have said that they have been suffering at the hands of their employers and alleged wages have been withheld, and jobs taken away, even more than before, since they began to support the farmers movement. The workers have also alleged that they have been targeted by the armed guards of the Kundli Industrial Association and the Haryana Police.

On January 12, the Haryana Police arrived at the Majdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS) tent at the Singhu Border and arrested Nodeep Kaur. Nodeep is 23, a Dalit woman and trade a union activist. Nodeep has since been in judicial custody, and the arrest has not yet made it to the national news. Her sister Rajveer Kaur has alleged that Haryana Police has targeted Nodeep and assaulted her in custody. She spoke to SabrangIndia, and has said targeting Nodeep is another example of the state’s efforts to discredit and malign the Kisan Andolan, and break solidarity it has forged with the worker unions. Excerpts from the conversation:

What happened on January 12, where was your sister Nodeep arrested and why?
Haryana Police came to the Majdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS) tent at the Singhu Border and arrested Nodeep. She is my younger sister, just 23, and works for the rights of fellow workers. She herself started working after her class 12th due to our financial condition. I am a student at Delhi University, we live in a rented accommodation and my sister used to work in a firm in Kundli. Our mother is active in the Punjab Khet Union, and lives in Muktsar. As a family, we always stand up whenever we feel something is going wrong. It is not wrong to stand up. The Constitution gives us that right. And we know this [arrests etc] happens to whoever raises their voice against the system. That is what has happened to my sister. She was arrested on January 12. We are Dalit, and women and we stand up for what is right. Even my mother was jailed once, because she stood up for those women who were exploited by the upper caste when they went to work in farms. Nothing has changed till now. We are all a part of the farmers movement as well. There were a lot of issues being faced by labourers. Nodeep [along with others] was there in solidarity with the farmers, since the agitation first reached there in December. She used to work at a private firm and was sacked even before she was arrested, for her activism. 

You have alleged that the Haryana police beat her in custody?
She was beaten by male police officers, she was hit on the back, on her private parts. She was arrested on January 12, and we reached the police station [late that night] but were told she had been sent to Karnal. There, the next day, I found out that she had been tortured, they did not even give her the medicines we had handed over. The SHO wanted to show her as a gang leader, she is just 23 years old, has completed her class 12 and was planning to apply to the Delhi university as an undergraduate. She is being framed and we will fight that. We asked that her medical examination be done. That was ordered by a court in Sonipat. Her next hearing is on January 25, she is in judicial custody till then. We got the FIR from court, the police did not provide it for us. They have put many charges on her to frame her and accuse her as the main person who allegedly attacked [the police]. At the Kundli police station two FIRs were filed against her, including under multiple sections. She has been accused of crimes including rioting while armed, unlawful assembly, assaulting a public servant, extortion, intimidation and attempt to murder. All false charges, she is being framed.

Are you saying she is being framed because she is an activist?
That is correct, she is a part of labour unions, works for the rights of labourers. And she had been active in bringing over 1,500 labourers to march in support of the farmers movement. This is an attempt to drown the voices of dissent, frame them under false charges, so they do not ask questions. There is a big conspiracy afoot at the Kundli Industrialist Association, in the Kundli area no labour law is obeyed. Labourers are made to work, not paid their wages, and are fired at will. And whoever will raise their voice will be targeted. Labourers and workers who are supporting the farmers are also being fired. Even my sister was fired from her job even before she was arrested, because she was going to support the farmers at Singhu. 

You have made serious allegations, why is this news not highlighted so far?
We come from a village to earn, we are Dalit, we are women. I am a student. There is a class difference, even the police attack a labourer like tyrants. There is a class issue. Where villagers, migrant labourers, dalits are concerned there is discrimination that we see regularly. My sister is still in jail, I met her on January 13 only and realised she has been subjected to police violence, including assault on her gentitals that can be termed sexual violence. She had gone with labourers to demand their pending wages from their employers in the Kundli area. Whereas on December 28 there were even shots fired by the Kundli industrial association, but no FIR was done in that case, but Nodeep was [later] arrested and framed. They accuse her of extortions. I ask, will an 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. 

Have you approached the human rights authorities regarding the allegations, especially of the sexual assault by policemen?   
We have mailed the National women’s commission, PMO, CJI, CM and the SC ST Commission. We want them to consider [our complaint] and issue a notice.


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