Deepika Rajawat: Threats have shifted form

Updated: Jun 18, 2018, 19:21 IST | Hemal Ashar | Mumbai

Hero lawyer Deepika Rajawat, who was felicitated in the city, says threats have now given way to character assassination after she took up the Kathua rape case

Deepika Singh Rajawat at the IMC, yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate
Deepika Singh Rajawat at the IMC, yesterday. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Frank, fiery and fearless advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat, who is fighting the case of the Kathua rape victim, was in the city on Tuesday, giving one interview after another, when we met her at the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC) building at Churchgate. Rajawat was in the city to receive the IMC Ladies' Wing 'Woman of the Year' award.

Rajawat, born in Kashmir and brought up in Jammu, laughed as she said, "I love Mumbai. Most endearing were the smiles I received from strangers at the club I was staying. Then, of course, there is the sea. I tasted the salt of the waves on my tongue and loved that."
Excerpts from Rajawat's chat with mid-day:

Are you still being threatened, intimidated to get you to stop fighting the Kathua case?
Let me say that the modus operandi has changed. Threats have shifted form and those who oppose me have started a character assassination campaign. They call me corrupt, brand me anti-national and say I am selective about whom I fight for and defend.

Have you got security, currently?
Yes, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has given me security. Physically, both my daughter and I are protected.

Then, what particular intimidation are you referring to?
I am being branded corrupt. Those who oppose me claim that I have taken crores of rupees. I filed a complaint with the Inspector General of Police (IGP) of Jammu saying that the cops need to act on these accusations. I gave him my bank account numbers and said conduct an investigation. You can probe if I have taken any money. Check my phone, do any kind of probe. If I am found guilty take away my lawyers' licence. But, no investigation has been done.

When you took up the case, did you foresee these obstacles?
I am pouring my heart out today. I never thought that the level of vitriol would reach this. I thought I was the daughter of Jammu & Kashmir. I could never have imagined that supporting a child could be so dangerous.

What gives you the strength to go on?
I am trying to work to the best of my ability. I am working through the atmosphere of intimidation. I promise to fight for those who die unheard. Our nation needs to change and become abuse free. We talk about fundamental rights, but what about fundamental duties? By duty, I mean it is the fundamental duty of a citizen to let another person live a life of dignity and not damage reputations.

You have your supporters too. Today, can you feel the love and respect so many have for you?
Yes, I can. This is my source of strength. I know there are like-minded people. In fact, Jammu, where I grew up, and now live, is not communal. It is a few elements that are creating problems, and we, as a people, need to disown them. The family of the victim is being protected but the case is such a big test for the government and I must say that Mehbooba Muftiji has passed this test. Now, it is a test of the judiciary.

What does advocate Deepika like to do out of the court?
I am a wife and mother. My daughter is six. I love to spend time with the family at home. I also spend time with friends and actually also love to work outside, on the field. I have ideas and projects and dreams. My hobby is to think up ways to make them reality. Like, I want to give women the right to live with dignity, find some work for them so that it enables them to make a livelihood in a dignified way. That, too, is so empowering.

'I wear the anti-nationalist label like a badge'
Rajawat's acceptance speech made many in the audience emotional. The advocate pulled no punches as she said, "I am thankful for this award. It is strength; it is something that stays with you. After I took up the Kathua case, many things happened. The nation is with me, yet I have been told that I am anti-national.

If supporting a child is being an anti-national, then I wear it as a badge. Because for me, when I am a lawyer and an activist, then I don't have a religion, I cannot be selective in choosing cases, I am answerable to everyone. I don't see whether the victim is Hindu Dalit or Muslim; that would be abusing the case itself. We need to bring change throughout the country. Why is there so much rape and murder, what is wrong? Are we giving this a thought? Being keyboard warriors is not enough, we all have a responsibility. The real award would be when our nation is abuse-free. At a time when people in Jammu view me as a villain, this award makes me feel accepted."

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