For the last few days, Nodeep Kaur has become a topic of discussion both online and offline. Even as international figures including author and activist Meena Harris bat for her release from jail, her family alleged that she was assaulted while in custody. Now, the Punjab State Commission for Scheduled Castes has asked a state additional chief secretary to intervene in the case.
But who is Nodeep Kaur? And why is she in prison?
The Dalit labour rights activist had reportedly been a member of the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan. She had joined the protest at Delhi's borders at the beginning of this year and has now been in jail for nearly a month. Arrested from the Singhu border on January 12, her bail was denied by the Sonipat court last week.
The 23-year-old activist is facing charges of attempt to murder and extortion. She along with others was arrested for allegedly gheraoing an industrial unit and demanding money from the company in Sonipat. A team of police personnel was allegedly attacked with sticks when they reached the site and according to officials, some had suffered injuries. Kaur remains at the Karnal jail in Haryana.
While some farmer leaders and student activists in Punjab have long been campaigning for the release of Kaur, they have found additional support recently. As an angry group of counter-protestors burnt photos of US Vice President Kamala Harris' niece, she took to Twitter campaigning for the release of Kaur. As Meena Harris put it, while it was "weird to see a photo of yourself burned by an extremist mob" it could be a far more problematic situation if she had lived in India.
"Imagine what they would do if we lived in India. I'll tell you—23 yo labor rights activist Nodeep Kaur was arrested, tortured and sexually assaulted in police custody. She's been detained without bail for over 20 days," she alleged in a February 6 tweet.
Taking cognisance of some media reports, the commission said the Punjab additional chief secretary for home affairs and justice should intervene in the matter and ensure relief to her at the earliest.
Commission chairperson Tejinder Kaur said the commission has taken the suo motu since the victim is a resident of Punjab's Muktsar district In a communique to the additional chief secretary, the panel also sought a report in this regard by February 23 after initiating immediate requisite action, according to the statement.
According to reports, Kaur's family is also approaching the High Court of Punjab and Haryana for her release. An Indian Express report that quotes her sister indicates that Kaur had been assaulted while in custody.
"On January 12, she was protesting near a factory in Kundli when police picked her up… I met her and she told me cops assaulted her in custody,” the article quotes her sister Rajvir as alleging.
The police however have denied the allegations.