The PUCL welcomes the release of Nodeep Kaur, demands the immediate release of co-activist Shiv Kumar, compensation against the illegal arrest of the two labour activists also demanding strict legal action against the police for the physical, sexual mental torture of the two.
At Singhu border lakhs of farmers are staying in thousands of makeshift tents demanding the repeal of all three farm laws. One of the tents among those houses industrial labourers protesting non-payment of salaries. These workers have come in solidarity with the farmers and at the same time have been organizing themselves as many of the workers are deprived of the hard-earned wages. They have not been paid since the lockdown.
Majdoor Adhikar Sanghatan (MAS), the union organizing these workers is a platform working towards ensuring that labour laws are followed. Through their organized efforts, many workers have been able to recover some of their dues. “According to the Haryana government, the minimum wage should be Rs 9,300, but workers in the Kundli-Sonipat area are made to work 12 hours for Rs 6,000- 7,000/month. Women are paid even less,” Nodeep Kaur, trade union worker of MAS said in a video report by independent journalist Saurabh Bambaiya published on 27th January. “A total of Rs 1 lakh-1.5 lakh has been recovered as withheld salaries (by the MAS),” as told to ThePrint (8th February) by Nodeep’s lawyer Vikas Attri.
According to a petition filed in the Punjab, Haryana High Court, an Association called Kundli Industrial are Association(KIA) has been formed by the industrialists in Kundli and this association has formed Quick Response Teams (QRTs), which are deployed to deter any protest, strike or unionization by labourers. KIA has hired Tops Security Private Limited under the PASARA Act Tops the topmost of the QRTs. Though QRTs are supposedly for patrolling. But in reality, they prevent all democratic rights activities. Even distribution of pamphlets is stopped, leave alone gate meetings. So workers could not hold any democratic activity for two years.
With the farmers’ struggle being alive, 200 meters from the industrial area, workers got the confidence and also put up a tent. The three names given in the civilians’ FIR are from the QRT team. On January 2, when the MAS workers visited the industry association, Kundli Industrial Association (KIA), demanding their unpaid wages, the quick response team (QRT) of Kundli Industrial Association (KIA) fired shots at them. Following this, the workers’ union went to file a case against the association at the Kundli police station. However, according to Rajveer (Nodeep’s sister), the police refused to register an FIR. On January 12 the factory workers approached the management of Elecmech Pvt Ltd, over the issue of nonpayment of dues once again, but they faced brutal lathi-charge at the hands of the QRT (read management goons). Even women workers faced harassment as their clothes were torn, as reported in The Wire.
On the same day January 12th, the Haryana Police arrested Nodeep Kaur, a Dalit, trade union activist of (MAS) at the Singhu border. Another Dalit, union activist, Shiv Kumar was picked up by the police on 16th January and produced before the Magistrate only on 24th January. Nobody was informed about his arrest. In fact, his family came to know of his arrest only on 31st January. This is a blatant violation of the law, which provides that any person arrested has to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours of his/her arrest. Shiv is not named in any of the three FIRs and he has been named amongst the “others”. And many more can be similarly picked up in the future.
It needs to be stressed that both Nodeep and Shiv Kumar are landless Dalit farmworker’s families. Nodeep is a mazhabi (dalit) sikh. Her father works in a factory in Telangana and her mother is an agricultural worker. Shiv Kumar is a Dalit too from the “chamar caste”, his father works as a security guard in a school. He acquired education in the IT field struggling against all economic, societal, caste discriminatory hurdles. He lost vision in his left eye at age 15. His other eye has very high power and in fact is on treatment in AIIMS Delhi, which is currently stalled due to this arrest. He has a serious visual disability. Till 20th February no one, not even a lawyer or family members were allowed to meet Shiv Kumar. Till the intervention by Punjab and Haryana High Court, no medical attention was given, despite broken bones and pulling out of nails. This is in complete violation of DK Basu guidelines and other CrPC safeguards.
Both these activists were mercilessly beaten and tortured by the police. On 19th February more than a month after the arrest while hearing a petition filed by Shiv Kumar’s father before the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the High Court ordered that Shiv Kumar’s medical examination be conducted by the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), Chandigarh. In the case of Nodeep Kaur, the sessions court ordered her medical examination on 15th January and the report was produced only on 25th January. Her sister Rajveer Kaur had alleged that Nodeep Kaur “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.” Haryana police have denied that she was sexually assaulted.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had taken suo moto cognizance of the alleged illegal detention of Nodeep Kaur following complaints received by them and had issued notice to the Haryana government. At the last hearing, the Haryana police failed to submit the medical report before the Punjab and Haryana High Court and only submitted the medico-legal report under Section 54 CrPC. Today i.e. on 26th February 2021, Nodeep Kaur has been finally granted bail by the High Court, which has observed that no prima facie case of attempt to murder has been made out in the case. She has been previously granted bail in two other cases of extortion, criminal intimidation etc.
Meanwhile, the medical report of Shiv Kumar that was prepared by a five-doctor board of the GMCH and submitted to the Punjab and Haryana High Court on 23rd February, states that in its opinion all the injuries on the person of the patient are more than two weeks old and were caused by a blunt object/weapon. There are four fractures and are listed as, fracture distal phalanx of the second digit of left hand, fracture of base of 5th Metatarsal bone of right foot, possibly fracture/ sesamoid bone at Left Navicular bone (foot), possibly fracture of the right Ulna bone. (right wrist). Besides, his toenails are broken and hurt (ripped). The psychiatric evaluation is suggestive of Post-traumatic disorder like symptoms. His psychiatric evaluation says he appears sad and depressed with occasional crying spells. Also predominant anxiety symptoms, flashbacks of brutality meted out to him, nightmares, feelings of loneliness, uncertainty about future, and sleep disturbances.
- Immediate release of the trade union activist Shiv Kumar
- Withdrawal of the charges against Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar
- Stern legal action against the police officials involved in the custodial torture.
- Compensation to Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar for their wrongful arrest and brutal torture in police custody.
- Workers in Kundli Sonipat Industrial area be paid their unpaid, legally due hardearned wages immediately.
- Appropriate legal action needs to be taken against the so-called Quick Response Team, which is nothing but a private goon-armed force, deployed by the Kundli Industrial Association, which terrorizes workers who are demanding their legally hard-earned wages.
- The Quick Response Team needs to be disbanded with immediate effect.
Mr. Ravi Kiran Jain, President, PUCL and Dr. V. Suresh, General Secretary, PUCL