Updated: February 18, 2021 10:21:25 am
Nineteen years ago, Sonepat resident Rajbir organised a grand celebration for his son Shiv Kumar’s fifth birthday.
“Badi dhoom dham se,” he recounts. On Wednesday, as Shiv turned 24, Rajbir spent the day outside the walls of Sonepat Jail, hoping in vain for a glimpse of his son whom he last saw two months ago.
“They did not let me meet him. I was turned away for the second time. He has issues in his left eye which has been operated upon twice. We have no information about him,” Rajbir (55), a Dalit landless labourer, told The Indian Express.
Shiv, president of the Kundli-based Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, was picked up by the Haryana Police on January 16, four days after activist Nodeep Kaur, a member of the same platform. Police claim they tried to extort factory owners and attacked personnel.
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Shiv requires regular medical care for both his eyes from AIIMS, Rajbir said.
While Nodeep’s arrest has received global attention, Shiv’s case has gone largely unnoticed.
On Wednesday, the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan held an event at Singhu border to celebrate Shiv’s birthday. Rajbir was among those who turned up. Asked to speak, he wiped tears, and turned away his face.
A resident of Sonepat’s Devru village, Rajbir serves as the chowkidar of a local school every night after working in the farms of landed peasants during the day. Apart from Shiv, he has a son who studies in class 8, and three daughters, two of whom are married. His wife is unwell and needs to be taken to IHBAS regularly.
“I have been running my family under great constraints. Shiv was a good student. I wanted him to pursue higher studies but he developed issues in his eyes when he was in class 10,” Rajbir said.
Shiv pursued a diploma from an ITI after completing school. Since then, he has been employed with a factory in Kundli, receiving a monthly wage of around Rs 8,000, over half of which went in supporting the family.
While family and friends said he was picked up by police from Singhu on January 16, they came to know about his arrest on January 31. “On February 2, the jail authorities turned me away saying I will be allowed to meet him after a fortnight. So I went to meet him on his birthday on Wednesday. But my request was rejected once again,” Rajbir said.
Kundli police station SHO, Ravi Kumar, however, said that Kumar was arrested on January 23. “His family was informed about the arrest… Whether or not they have been able to met him is something the jail authorities can speak about. But there is no reason for them to deny a meeting as per norms… Both Nodeep and Shiv have been arrested in connection with the same case. More arrests will be made,” he told The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, activists of MAS, including Kaur’s sister Rajveer, also said their efforts to establish contact with Shiv have been unsuccessful so far. According to members of the Sangathan, Shiv and Nodeep had “faced attack” from private guards on December 28 as they led a protest of workers demanding wages. On January 12, another protest took a violent turn. “Policemen dragged Nodeep from the area. This led workers to retaliate leading to clashes. Later, Shiv was picked up. The MAS also removed its tent from the spot,” an activist said.
Asked if he supported his son’s activism, Rajbir said, “Wo (Shiv) bhi mazdoor, hum bhi mazdoor, baaki aur bhi sab mazdoor hai. Why will I have an issue with him fighting for what is right and just?”
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