Nodeep Kaur is a 23 year old revolutionary, compassionate, brave and assertive young Dalit woman who learnt to fight from bearing the thorns that life had to offer since her childhood. Since the financial condition at her home was delicate, she studied till 12th. A few months ago, she had started working at FIEM Industries, a bulb making factory in Kundali. She struggled with poverty throughout her childhood and connected her struggle to an encompassing fight for justice and equality.
Nodeep, who held an awareness about her rights, empathises with the struggle of a factory worker too. She understood very well that in this country, you don’t get your rights simply by asking for them and you need to fight. She became a part of the workers’ rights organisation. She stood against unfair pay, delayed pay and for equal pay for women and raised movements for the same.
Nodeep in her video says that workers and farmers struggle together since farmers produce the raw material which is then sent to factories where workers work. She says that the government has already sold the roads, railway and banks of the country and now they are buying off the farmlands to the capitalists. They also wish to buy the lives of the common people. She did not want this to happen so she started struggling for her rights. Nodeep raised slogans of farmer-worker unity and raised a movement in solidarity with farmers against the brahmanical capitalist system.
Factory owners started an association called Quick Response Team (QRT) to weaken the movement. They had an agenda: to threaten workers who stood against them and drive them away from the movement. QRT also targeted the farmer-worker unity at Kundali. They threatened Nodeep and the other workers to withdraw solidarity.
In India, Dalit women are thrice oppressed. The caste system denies women their rights. In that, if she is a Dalit woman, she is only considered to be a servant. Brahminical patriarchy does not even accord her the dignity of treating her like a human being.
Nodeep wanted this movement to grow. She says that women hold equal stakes in farming as well as factory work. She wasn’t just fighting for her rights, but was leading a movement. It was intolerable for the brahmanical capitalist system that a Dalit labourer woman was challenging this system. She feared nothing, from biting cold and a flaming sun to threats from capitalist goons. She went ahead with the movement.
“Nodeep is a Dalit working woman who is a leader. She is a soft target of this casteist brahmanical system. She is being easily picked up, thrown in jail and being sexually abused. Because this system is Brahmanical, it targets people on the basis of their caste. If Nodeep were an upper caste woman, this would not have happened to her. She is harassed in order to suppress her voice. In addition to that, voices of support for Nodeep were raised too late because of her caste, class and gender. We must work together to prevent this from happening again.” said Rupali Jadhav, cultural activist from Kabir Kala Manch.
Violence against Dalit women is not new.They have to face injustice at every step, as though the only purpose of her birth is to struggle and as though any injustice on her is only right and she has no choice but to bear it. Dalit women bear unimaginable violence at home and in public. Sexual harassment at workplaces, rapes, murders and harrassment are committed on them openly.
But Nodeep was not one to silently bear things. She is a lion heart who was brave enough to raise her voice and demand rights for workers. That is why casteist policemen meted out brutal sexual and mental abuse to her. She was arrested without following any procedures and was thrown in jail. Not only that, she was also attacked on her private parts in custody. She had to face custodial torture. The police carried out these brutal acts because of their Brahmanical and patriarchal mindsets and this is the plain truth.
There are three FIRs registered against Nodeep Kaur. Cases have been registered against her under several sections of the Indian Penal Code including lethal weapons, unlawful assembly, arme attempt to murder, rioting, and assault to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty.
If we dig into the history of the casteist system, we will see many such Nodeeps. In 2013, Sheetal Sathe, cultural activist from Maharashtra was also arrested for protesting. Whenever a person raises their voice against this system, it organises to imprison them, commit physical and mental atrocities on them and break their spirit, or just kill them. This system has never given justice to Dalit women. Even today, it is trying to break Nodeep by carrying out inhuman oppression on her.
“This system intimidates Dalit women who leads the movement against oppressive structure. To pressurise them to leave the struggle, to scare them, to suppress their voices this system puts them in jail. For this they also use the tool of sexual harassment. But Dalit women are not afraid of this. They will ignite and overthrow this system,” says Suvarna Salve, the lead activist and singer of Samta Kala Manch, an Ambedkarite cultural troupe and the cultural wing of Republican Panther’s Caste Annihilation Movement.
The story of injustice towards Dalit women is an ongoing one. In this country, people descend to the streets in order to bring justice to upper caste women, but don’t do the same for Dalit women like Nodeep. This justice system of this country too is smeared with Manuwadi thought.
The casteist government of the country doesn’t care to ensure justice for Dalit people because they hold lesser social and political power. National Crime Record Bureau data shows number of Dalit population in jail is disproportionately higher than their population outside. Over 21.7 percent of convicted inmates, 21 percent undertrials and 18.5 percent detainees in Indian jails are Dalit people, where their share of population is 16.6 percent. Denial of justice is a part and parcel of a Dalit woman’s life. Nodeep too was denied bail twice. On 6th February, when American lawyer Meena Harris tweeted in support of Nodeep, these people woke up.
Despite all this, the country’s Manuwadi media is silent. On the contrary, the Modi government is wantonly arresting people fighting for their rights, labelling them as traitors to the country or ‘andolanjeevi’. Shiv Kumar who works with Nodeep in the Workers Unity Organisation comes from an extremely poor family. He too was arrested and thrown in jail by the system.
Even if Nodeep is in jail today, it is the need of the hour for us to become her voice and stand in solidarity with her movement and her fight.
Therefore, Dalit public must come together and raise our voices against injustice in these difficult times, so that we can live with dignity and equality.
Megha Kshirasgar is an Ambedkarite Cultural Activist, she is a member of Samta Kala Manch. She did Masters in Social work (Dalit and Tribal Studies and Action) from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.
Featured Image Source: Hindustan Times