The labour activist, who was assaulted and arrested for demanding fair wages and dignity for her co-workers, insists onbeing treated as if she is human and as if the Indian Constitution means something

By Dushyant

A Dalit family is driven to penury during the Covid-19 lockdown. Father travels to another city to work as a driver. One daughter, 23-year-old, decides to work as labourer in a factory. There she finds that workers are not being paid their dues for months, that women labourers are being subjected to indignity and violence.

She joins an association of workers and begins protesting for release of unpaid dues. The protest is met with violence – reportedly at the behest of the factory’s owners and with the collusion of the police. Shortly thereafter, she ends up in a prison in Haryana charged with rioting armed with a deadly weapon, unlawful assembly, causing hurt to public servant, assault and criminal force, trespass, extortion, criminal intimidation and attempt to murder. A report in Outlook magazine quotes her lawyer and her family saying that the police assaulted her on her private parts with lathis. The police, needless to add, deny this. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has recently converted an anonymous email about her torture into a criminal writ petition and issued notice to the state.

She is a habitual criminal. A history-sheeter. Her first three crimes were committed simultaneously – she was born a woman, Dalit andpoor. Her subsequent crimes are an aggravation upon the first three. She believes she has rights. She wants to fight for these rights. She insists that everyone else become a party to her crime and also believe that she has rights. Does she pay income tax? Hard to say. Does she know that those who pay income tax have a first claim on the bag of rights on offer?

No idea.

Poet Aamir Aziz says in a video: “ Bharat Ek Khwaab Hai” India is a dream/an idea. When I first heard this I immediately thought of the Indian Constitution. The Constitution of India is not a reflection of what India is. It is a reflection of where its framers decided India should move towards. It is a picture of what India should be and can be one day. Equality, liberty, freedom — not what we already have, but what we insist we must have. We point to the Constitution of India and we say look, contained here are the promises we made to ourselves. We promised each other we will move towards Equality, Liberty, Freedom. We go to court and wave the Constitution and say we demand that these promises be honoured.

Who really is jailed activist Nodeep Kaur?

If the Constitution of India had to be summarised in one word and one word only, the word would be – dignity. I know two more languages – Hindi and Punjabi. The Hindi word is – garima. The Punjabi word is – maan. The central promise of the Indian Constitution is dignity for every individual. This promise, that everyone ought to be treated with dignity, is a khwaab.

Paash, revolutionary poet, wrote – Sabse Khatarnaak, in which he writes Sabse Khatarnaak Hota Hai Hamare Sapnon Ka Mar Jaana. (The most dangerous thing is the death of our dreams). Nodeep Kaur refuses to bury the dream of being treated with dignity. She insists on being treated as if she is human and as if the Indian Constitution means something. As if the book ought to be taken seriously.

When you think about it, this stubbornness is almost criminal isn’t it? Kaur wants to be paid fair wages in a country where according to a report by D Ajit, Han Donker and Ravi Saxena, 90 per cent of the boards of India’s top 1000 companies have Brahmins and Banias as directors. The remaining 10 per cent must be the remaining castes which are believed to be over 90 per cent of the population. Her bail has been denied twice, she wants justice in a country where the Supreme Court has only had two Dalit judges in the past ten years.

All this in a country where only one member of Parliament -Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur – spoke out for her, even as elected representatives and activists across the world have expressed outrage and anguish at her ordeal.

A country where a large number of people rage about how ‘reservation’ has killed merit, without bothering to inform themselves about the number of reserved posts which are left (or kept?) vacant. A country where merit is flourishing so much that judges have forgotten the fundamental principles of Habeas Corpus. Where all the law on bail — is the person a flight risk, could the person influence witnesses or tamper with evidence etc — has been discarded and all that matters is the mood of the judge and the name of the client.

An Arnab Goswami will get bail and sermons on liberty, a Siddique Kappan will have his Habeas Corpus adjourned week after week. The hallowed corridors of justice overflowing with merit. What could be a greater crime than insisting on dignity in such circumstances? Kaur must receive the most severe punishment.In new India, nothing less will be tolerated.

Courtesy : Mumbai Mirror