Jailed Dalit activist Nodeep Kaur granted bail by Indian court

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Dalit labour activist Nodeep Kaur was granted bail and released on Friday by the Punjab Haryana High Court after spending more than a month in prison.

Nodeep, 25, was arrested on Jan. 12 while protesting outside a factory on the outskirts of the capital, Delhi in support of striking farmers.

Her arrest has led to global outrage given the circumstances in which she was picked up by Haryana state police amid accusations of sexual assault and torture. The police strongly denied assaulting her.

Her arrest had received global attention after Meena Harris, niece of American Vice President Kamala Harris, tweeted calling for her release.

Ms. Harris wrote that the activist was “arrested, tortured and sexually assaulted in police custody”.

Nodeep was accused in three separate cases and was charged under sections of the law that deal with attempt to murder, extortion, rioting, unlawful assembly and criminal intimidation. She had been granted bail in two of the cases earlier.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court was expected to decide her bail plea on Wednesday, but it was deferred to Friday after the authorities failed to submit her medical examination report in court.

The high court had also started another case, asking the police in Haryana state to explain her “illegal confinement” after the chief justice received emails alleging torture in custody.

“She was beaten by male police officers publicly and they dragged her by her hair into the police van,” her older sister Rajveer Kaur told the BBC’s Geeta Pandey.

“The next day when I met her in jail, she told me she was beaten inside the van and at the police station. She was slapped and punched, and hit with shoes and sticks, including on her private parts, resulting in heavy bleeding for days,” she said.

An official who had seen the report told the BBC that “her injuries indicate that she was tortured and hit on her private parts”.

Nodeep comes from a poor Dalit family (formerly untouchables who were placed at the bottom of India’s repressive caste hierarchy).

Last year, she moved to the Kundli Industrial Area (KIA) on the outskirts of capital Delhi to work in a glass factory. It was here that she joined a workers’ union.

She had been working at the factory when farmers protesting new agriculture laws started gathering on Delhi’s borders at the end of November last year. She and her colleagues joined the protests days later.

According to LiveLaw, Nodeep said in her petition that she was “targeted and falsely implicated in the matter as she was successful in generating massive support in favour of the farmers”.

Now in their third month, the protests have become one of the biggest challenges faced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) government.

Farmers say that the new laws are against their interests. The authorities have offered to suspend the laws for 18 months, but farmers say they must be repealed.

Talks between the two sides have failed to yield any results so far. (Source: BBC)

 

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