On February 6, a tweet by U.S.-based lawyer Meena Harris in support of labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur sparked a social media debate on her arrest. Ms. Harris shared media reports alleging sexual assault on Ms. Kaur, who was arrested on January 12 and is still in custody. The local court had on February 2 denied bail to her in the case.
Nodeep’s sister had alleged that she was beaten up by the police, and she had injuries on private parts. However, she denied media reports alleging that Nodeep was sexually assaulted. The Haryana Police, meanwhile, has denied the allegations as “arbitrary” and released two videos to substantiate its claims.
Who is Nodeep Kaur?
Nodeep Kaur is a 23-year-old Dalit woman who hails from a family of activists in Punjab. Her parents are associated with a farmers’ union. Her sister Rajveer Kaur is a Ph.D student at Delhi University’s Department of Punjabi and a member of Bhagat Singh Chhatra Ekta Manch.
Post lockdown, Ms. Nodeep started working at a 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. She was also supportive of the farmers’ agitation.
Her sister Ms. Rajveer, in a tweet, said that Ms. Nodeep has 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 put behind bars.
Circumstances of arrest
Ms. Nodeep was arrested by the Sonipat Police on January 12 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, and attempts to extort money from them. 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.
Sharing videos of the alleged assault on the police team, the Sonipat Police, in a press statement, 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. During her stay in police station, she was accompanied by two lady police personnel, it added.
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.
Sonipat Superintendent of Police Jashandeep Singh Randhawa said that similar complaints of extortion were received against Nodeep earlier as well, and a case was registered on December 28, 2020. He added that she was not a part of the farmers’ agitation.
Targeted for being voice of workers, says her lawyer
Advocate Amit Srivastava, supporting Nodeep’s cause, alleged that she was held in illegal detention and sexually assaulted. He added that she was being targeted for raising the voice of the workers. He, however, said that he was not aware of the contents of her statement before the Chief Judicial Magistrate.