A crusader’s plight

Print edition : May 11, 2018

Deepika (Thusoo) Singh Rajawat. Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP

A YOUNG woman lawyer, Deepika (Thusoo) Singh Rajawat, has emerged as a prominent voice in the case of rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl from the Gujjar-Bakarwal community. Deepika Rajawat, who originally hails from Kashmir and retains her Kashmiri Pandit maiden name Thusoo, has been at the forefront in seeking justice for the girl.

What brought Deepika Rajawat to the “limelight” was the resistance she faced from the Bar Association of the Jammu wing of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. She first took to social media on April 4 when she was threatened by the members of the Bar Association. “They asked me why I was appearing for the case as the Bar Association was on strike,” she told Frontline. “My argument was that all that I was doing was for the sake of justice in this case. Jammu is burning. I want to contribute to dousing the fire and it is my choice for whom I stand.” However, the threats did not stop. “One of the lawyers threatened me on Facebook in April saying that I would not be forgiven.”

Deepika Rajawat later complained to the High Court, which directed the State to ensure her safety. Along with Gujjar-Bakarwal rights activist Talib Hussain, she moved the Supreme Court seeking transfer of the trial of the case outside the State. On reaching Delhi, she said that she faced threats to her life and dignity. “They boycotted me in 2012 and 2013 and asked all members to socially ostracise me,” she said, adding that she was expelled from the Bar as well. “I was fighting injustice at many levels, which did not go down well with them.” She continued: “I must say I do not know how long I will stay alive. I can be raped. I can be killed. I am seeking help from the Supreme Court. For us (me and Talib), to live is important as we don’t want another minor raped and murdered this way.”

“We need to fight these beasts. I am regarded with the eyes of hatred. I have been isolated. But I promise that we will continue our fight for justice for this girl no matter what... We want subsequent stages of the investigation to avoid controversy, blame game, misgivings and politicisation of this case, which is why we moved the Supreme Court,” she said.

This is not for the first time that Deepika Rajawat has talked about child welfare and women’s rights. She is the founder of the non-governmental organisation, Voice for Rights, and has worked for the Charkha Foundation, Child Rights and You (CRY) and Lawyer’s Collective. She completed her LLB in 2008 from National Law University, Jodhpur, and started practising law besides campaigning for child rights. In this case, she is counsel for the father of the victim.

Shujaat Bukhari

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