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Friday, April 16, 2021

Knew people would support me but never imagined such response: Nodeep Kaur

On Saturday afternoon, she arrived at the Singhu border protest site over a month after she had been arrested.

Written by Sukrita Baruah | New Delhi |
Updated: February 28, 2021 1:22:03 am
Knew people would support me but never imagined such response: Nodeep KaurDalit labour rights activist Nodeep Kaur at Singhu, Saturday. (Express photo by Amit Mehra)

“There are so many women in so many places who are continuously fighting for their rights, whose voices have not been raised to a high level. I am an ordinary girl and have been struggling for rights for a long time. Mujhe umeed nahi thi ki janta mujhe itna upar tak lekar jayegi,” said 24-year-old Nodeep Kaur, a day after she was granted bail by the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

On Saturday afternoon, she arrived at the Singhu border protest site over a month after she had been arrested. A local activist, fighting for workers’ rights in the Kundli Industrial Area where she too was working, she said she had little idea while in prison that her case had gained international prominence.

“I didn’t have that much of an idea but I knew that the people whom I had worked so much for would try to get me out of jail. I found out a lot later because I was not able to meet anyone, there weren’t even newspapers in jail. I found out much later that people like Meena Harris had also spoken up for me. I was very happy because it took the issue to an international level. I never thought anything like this would happen,” she told The Indian Express.

“I was a local activist and that’s what I’ll be in the future — working for farmers, workers and women. I don’t support any political party and don’t want anything to do with them.”

She said that her immediate concern is to demand the release of her fellow activist Shiv Kumar, and protesters who have been arrested after January 26. “Till this movement continues, I will continue to go to all the borders and will try to encourage continued participation of workers. Farmers’ issues are deeply tied to those of workers. If prices increase, workers will be among the worst hit,” she said.

Nodeep had dreams to study in Delhi University after completing her class XII in 2018, but had to work instead to support her family. “I had a complete gap after class XII and was not able to study further because my family was not in a financially good condition. I wanted to study. I had even applied to Khalsa College, but when I started working here I saw how workers were being oppressed. I decided to let that dream go, and decided to continue here. I think the work I’m doing with workers is very important. I want to continue that, mujhe degree lene se koi matlab nahi hai,” she said.

She also explained how the arrival of the farmers’ agitation to the Singhu border gave an impetus to the struggles of local workers.

“Three months before the kisan andolan, I started working here in a factory and joined the Mazdoor Adhikar Sangathan, which had been working here for three years. But this sangathan did not have the courage or the numbers to do a movement and put forward their demands. But then the farmers came to Singhu with their demands and when workers saw them, they also got jazba and josh that we can also put forward our demands. With that motivation, we had just demanded that the workers be paid for work they had done before the lockdown,” she said.

She maintains her allegation that she was assaulted by police on the day she was arrested. “On January 12, we had gone to two other factories to demand wages due to some workers. At the third unit, we were there for half an hour after which the quick response team attacked us and the police came. I was dragged away by the hair by police, and I’m not denying that there were clashes between the police and workers but I had already been taken away by then…

At Kundli police station I was beaten very badly… Later at night, I was taken to a police station in Sonipat, where I had been pulled by the hair and forced to sign a document. There also I was beaten very badly… It is being said that I myself did not want a medical check done but that is not true… I was able to get a medical check done after 14 days,” she said.

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