Nodeep Kaur Punished After Winning Wages for Laborers NOW RELEASED

Perhaps the most glaring example to demonstrate the struggle is a cultural one and it is between authoritarianism vs the...

Sitting alone in a small institutionalized room accompanied only by the ominous sounds of someone potentially being intimidated. The walls meet with bars, there is nothing to do but contemplate life. This is someone in jail. How did they get here? Are they a criminal or are they a hero?

For Sikhs our Gurus themselves had spent time in prison. Some estimates say that Guru Hargobind remained locked in Gwalior for 12 to 14 years! He wasn't the only Guru to be arrested under trumped up, fabricated charges.  

Guru Arjun and Guru Teg Bahadur could have ended their suffering at any moment if they had simply kissed the proverbial ring of the empire and changed their religion. But they never gave into the intimidation for a moment.

Martin Luther King Jr. captured it thusly, ““One has not only a legal, but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

There is nothing in the Sikh tradition that says we shouldn't engage in civil disobedience in the name of humanity.

Policies are one thing, human rights are another

The farmers' protests have proven to be far more than about agricultural policy. One strong indication of this was the arrest of a young climate activist, Disha Ravi, who was only peripherally involved with the protest and then amazingly accused of sedition (recently the courts have exonerated her). 

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Perhaps the most glaring example to demonstrate that the struggle is a cultural one, that is between authoritarianism vs. the will of the people, is that of NODEEP KAUR.  

The 24 year old comes from a family that is not well off financially but who are outspoken advocates for the rights of the common people. Nodeep herself had become a leader in the fight to restore wages to factory workers who claim wages have been withheld. 

Blood or Milk

She joined a union who’s president is a young man named Shiv Kumar. The union has 60-70 members and goes to various factories to demand more fair wages. They set up a tent at the farmers protest site, an appropriate place to advocate for fair wages. While the factories deny that salaries had been unpaid, the workers union that Shiv Kumar and Nodeep are part of, has helped 300 workers recover a total of 5 lakh rupees. A success by any measure. 

One is reminded of Guru Nanak refusing to eat from Malik Bhago who was cruel to his employees. There will always be those who are more well off and those who are less, but it is our teaching to improve the lot of the least among us and stand up against the bullies who would exploit them. 

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An Oppressed New Heroine

Throughout her involvement with the farmers protest she continued to take the activism directly to her previous work site, a light bulb factory, to demand wages. On January 12th the protest was met by the police. Then things take a dark turn. She was arrested apparently dragged by her hair. This incited the protesters whom the police accuse initiating violence. The police accuse Nodeep herself of physically attacking them at every step. They also charge her with murder. Though the charge was levied more than a month ago, this extreme allegation has not been met with an appropriate backing or evidence.

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While in prison her sister was able to visit. The sibling left reporting that Nodeep had been tortured and beaten throughout her body, including her genitals. Shiv Kumar, who was arrested a few days after her, recently offered graphic details of what kind of torture he endured including sleep deprivation and targeted beatings. For more details read here.

By now her story had become known around the world. US VP’s niece tweeted about it.

The farm protesters posted pictures of her everywhere and onlookers across the globe echoed calls that she be released. Sympathisers from abroad have donated 1 lakh rupees to Nodeep’s mother

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Nodeep Kaur is now a living icon. 

The Legal Saga

Nodeep Kaur had petitioned to be released on bail and she won. Clearly showing the frivolous nature of the accusations in the first place. But she wasn't released because that was only one of three cases against her. Later her second petition was also won. However, her third case, which included murder charge, was denied pending further investigation. Another trail was set and was delayed until yesterday. This time, the second attempt on the third case, she was cleared for bail.

We are grateful that sense has prevailed in the courts this time. However all of this raises the question of validity of charges against Indian people from the police. It seems they can simply cry 'sedition' or 'murder' whenever they don't like someone? In the case of Disha Ravi the judge issued a not too indirect indictment of this type of overreach

’the offence of sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of the government.’

Fresh Air

Nodeep was locked up for 44 days, a month and a half. 

A number of hours ago video emerged of Nodeep Kaur adorned with bright siropas and golden garlands of flowers. She is swarmed by supporters chanting slogans including

"Long live Nodeep, long live farmer unity!"

Her otherwise serious demeanor now teases a smile: 

Upon her release Nodeep Kaur reportedly said,  

"I will continue my fight for labourers and other people. I will join farmers’ agitation soon. Farmers are sitting there for their demands and the government should listen to their demands. I am out of jail due to the blessings of people. I thank the people who stood by me in the time of need." 

Bandi Chhor

In the year of 2021 we celebrate the 400th birth anniversary of Guru Teg Bahadur. It is widely known that Guru Sahib was captured, tortured and ultimately executed by the empire of the time. 

What is lesser known is that this was the 3rd time he had been arrested. Once Guru was imprisoned for months and released after a sympathetic royalty petitioned on his behalf, and a second time for two and a half months he was again arrested and similarly released. Guru Nanak and Guru Hargobind were also arrested under trumped up charged and ultimately released. All together our Gurus have spent years in prison. This is where we get the term 'Bandi Chhor' from, words that are found in the Adi Granth to describe God. We consider all the Gurus to be One Guru and all of them are 'Bandi Chhor' in that they are able to free our imprisoned minds. It also describes the enlightened leader who is happy to suffer in order to free others, the most magnificent display of this was during the time of the 6th Guru. 

As Nodeep Kaur has been released we continue to pray, as we have for hundreds of years, that all innocents are freed and all oppression ends.

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