Taking up complaints about the alleged illegal detention of Nodeep Kaur, a 23-year-old Dalit labourer and trade union activist, the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday issued notice to the Haryana government.
The court has asked Haryana to explain the complaint filed against Ms Kaur who was arrested on January 12 when she had joined a protest by labourers at state’s Kundli and has allegedly suffered sexual abuse while in custody.
The court said it was taking up the complaints it received on Feb 6 and 8 about Nodeep Kaur’s “illegal confinement” by Haryana Police.
The activist, who has been in jail for over a month, was granted bail in one of the three cases filed against her on Thursday but had been turned away in another last week by local courts in Haryana. The hearing in the third case is due on Monday.
Ms Kaur’s arrest has been protested by political leaders in India and has also drawn international criticism with lawyer and author Meena Harris, the niece of US Vice-President Kamala Harris, among public figures who have spoken out against her detention.
Nodeep Kaur had been working at a firm in Kundli Industrial Area in Haryana’s Sonipat, around 3 km from the Delhi-Haryana border, where farmers have been protesting for more than two months.
With a family history in activism – her parents are members of farmer unions in Punjab and sister is a student activist in Delhi University – she had joined “Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan” a trade union that worked to ensure labour rights.
Within four months, she was fired. On January 12 she was protesting in the Kundli industrial area with 20 others demanding wages when they clashed with the police.
Later, Nodeep Kaur was arrested and a battery of charges – murder, extortion, theft, rioting, unlawful assembly, extortion and criminal intimidation – was made against her.
Denying all allegations, Nodeep Kaur’s sister Rajveer Kaur has accused the police of custodial torture and sexual assault on her sister.
“The government is afraid of the unity of workers of farmers and that is why my sister is being targeted,” Rajveer Kaur told reporters. “She has been beaten up in the police station by male staff and has even been sexually assaulted. There are injuries in her private parts. There should be strict action,” she added.
The police have denied all allegations, calling them “concocted”.
“The activists’ attack upon the police resulted in injuries to seven personnel, including a woman constable,” said Sonipat police in a statement issued last week. “The allegations of sexual assault seem to be an afterthought and the police department clearly negates them. Also, Kaur was constantly in the presence of two women personnel,” the statement added.