New Delhi: Dalit labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur, who was arrested on 12 January after a labour union protest turned violent at Delhi’s Singhu border, alleged police brutality while in custody and also that they spoke disparagingly about Dalits.
Kaur, who spent 46 days in jail, was released Friday after receiving bail in a third and final FIR against her, which includes charges of attempt to murder, theft and extortion.
The 24-year-old has, since her arrest, become the face of farmer-labourer unity at Singhu border.
Nodeep alleged that on the day of her arrest, she and members of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan (MAS) — a labour union she belongs to — had been protesting for 30 minutes, demanding salaries they claim had been withheld, when the police beat them up.
“They beat me and other women up. When other labourers saw me getting beaten up, they also indulged in violence. I tried to stop them but they didn’t listen to me. When I was caught by the police, there was no weapon, nothing in my hand. Baseless allegations have been made against me under sections of the IPC (Indian Penal Code) that do not apply here,” she told ThePrint.
“When I was arrested, they first took me to a deserted road in the Kundli area where they beat me. Then they took me to the Kundli thana (police station) and beat me there as well and then finally they took me to Karnal Jail. I was beaten up by male police personnel, there was no female constable around. They beat me up on my private parts. My medical report is testimony to the fact that I was beaten up brutally,” she claimed.
A medical report submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court Friday noted that doctors who examined Nodeep at the Sonepat Civil Hospital on 25 January, 13 days after her arrest, found bruises on various parts of her body, including a “10 cm by 7 cm over her left thigh, and of about 5 cm by 6cm on her back.”
Nodeep also alleged that Kundli Station House Officer Ravi Kumar had said: “Dalits can’t rise so high in society that they become the voice of the people. Who gave you the right to speak for everyone?”
The Kundli SHO, however, denied Nodeep’s claims as “false allegations”. “We didn’t pass any such comments. There are many Dalit police constables also … I don’t treat them like that,” Kumar told ThePrint on the phone.
Police have also denied the allegations of custodial torture. Investigating Officer Shamsher Singh had told ThePrint that due protocol was followed in Nodeep’s arrest. Sonipat Police had also issued a statement on 6 February saying MAS members and labourers became “violent and started beating the police officials with huge lathis and sticks”.
‘No FIR against people who were violent with us’
Nodeep comes from a family of vocal woman activists, one that has seen several difficulties owing to a dwindling financial situation. She began working in the Kundli Industrial Area to earn money in order to pay the fees for Khalsa College in Delhi University. It was here, she said, that she saw the harassment of labourers and thus joined MAS.
“We have been protesting against the non-payment of salaries in the Kundli Industrial Area for a while now. The police filed an FIR against me, but never against the Quick Response Team (QRT) employed by the Kundli Industrial Association (KIA) which has gotten violent with us several times,” Nodeep said.
The KIA, though, has maintained there is no issue of non-payment of salaries. It also denied that the QRT was violent with the labourers.
Dheeraj Choudhary, a KIA executive, had told ThePrint, “Why would any industry not pay their workers? This is not the case. We didn’t threaten anyone with violence or assault … If the salary has been stopped, it must have been for a reason — for instance, if the worker didn’t follow the company’s rules.”
KIA President Subhash Gupta reportedly said: “We have been robbed a lot of times. Our generators have been stolen and intruders have tried to get in. That’s the reason why we keep guards … They also saved us from the flag-carrying, slogan-raising group of people.”
Nodeep alleges Shiv Kumar also beaten up in custody
The arrest of Nodeep’s associate, Shiv Kumar, who is the president of the MAS, has also been making headlines. Unlike Nodeep, Kumar is still in jail awaiting bail. His family alleged Kumar was taken into “illegal” police custody on 16 January, but police said he was arrested on 23 January, and due procedure was being followed.
His medical report, which was released Thursday, revealed he had “multiple fractures in his hands and legs, and injuries caused by a blunt object or weapon,” which Kumar alleges were inflicted by the Sonipat Police personnel.
“It is due to the support of the people that Shiv Kumar’s medical was conducted at a hospital in Chandigarh, which has now shown how brutally he was beaten up in police custody,” Nodeep alleged. Kumar turned 24 while in police custody on 17 February and is visually impaired in one eye.
ThePrint reached Sonepat’s Superintendent of Police Jashandeep Singh Randhawa for comment via phone calls and a text message but did not receive a response till the time of publishing this report.
Despite having spent over a month in jail, Nodeep says she is still committed to fight for Dalit labour rights. “I want to devote my life to a fight like this … I don’t believe in degrees anymore, based on which it is already so hard to get jobs. I will devote my entire life to fighting for the rights of labourers and farmers,” she told ThePrint.
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