The Dalit labour activist, who has been in jail since January 12, was sexually assaulted in custody, her family has alleged.

Dalit labour activist Nodeep Kaur wearing a grey scarf over a green kurta
news Controversy Sunday, February 07, 2021 - 15:38

The family of Nodeep Kaur, the 23-year-old Dalit labour activist who has been jailed for protesting against the contentious farm laws, is mulling moving the High Court of Punjab and Haryana against her arrest. Her family has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by the police while in custody. According to reports, Kaur was arrested on January 12 on charges of allegedly assaulting police on duty during the protests at Delhi's borders against the new agriculture laws. Nodeep’s arrest has caught global attention after Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice President Kamala Harris, tweeted seeking her release.

“Weird to see a photo of yourself burned by an extremist mob but imagine what they would do if we lived in India. I'll tell you—23 yo labor rights activist Nodeep Kaur was arrested, tortured & sexually assaulted in police custody. She's been detained without bail for over 20 days,” Meena Harris tweeted, with one picture condemning her for speaking up for the farmers who have been protesting the farm laws, and another one of a protester seeking Nodeep’s release from jail.   

Tweeting with the hashtag #ReleaseNodeepKaur, Meena added in a separate tweet, “This isn't just about agricultural policy. It's also about the persecution of a vocal religious minority. It's police violence, militant nationalism, and attacks on labor rights. It's global authoritarianism. Don't tell me to stay out of your affairs. These are all of our issues."

A member of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan in Sonipat, Nodeep had been part of the agitations against the farm laws since they began in November. She was arrested on January 12 --  two weeks before the Republic Day protests that led to a wider crackdown on protesters and journalists by the government -- while protesting near a factory in Kundli, Haryana. She was arrested under various charges including section 307 of the Indian Penal Code (attempt to murder), according to The Wire. She has been denied bail twice so far, owing to the serious nature of charges against her, and her next bail hearing is scheduled for Monday. Nodeep has been in police custody for 25 days, and her family has alleged that she has been assaulted by the police while in custody.   

Nodeep’s sister Rajvir, and a lawyer who has been working with her family on her case, have alleged that Nodeep was beaten by police personnel, according to the Indian Express. Sonipat police have reportedly denied the allegations of harassment, and have claimed that Nodeep had refused to undergo a special medical examination for sexual assault, stating that she had not been assaulted. They also claimed that Nodeep did not mention assault by police officials in front of the Chief Judicial Magistrate before being moved to Karnal jail.   

Nodeep, who belongs to the Sri Muktsar Sahib town of Punjab, was reportedly working at a bulb-making factory in Kundli. Her sister told The Wire that she had taken up the job after completing class 12 a few years ago due to her family’s financial difficulties, and was planning to apply to the Delhi University in the future.   

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