“My fall was disastrous. I was wounded and hurt. I was pulled down from being a hero to a villain. But I am happy that justice has been served. After all, this is what I wanted to fight for,” Deepika Singh Rajawat tells The Logical Indian In an exclusive conversation.
On January 17, 2018, the body of an eight-year-old girl was found in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua. The post-mortem revealed that she was drugged, gang-raped and murdered.
The investigation found that the accused conspired to abduct the girl and kill her to get the Bakarwals (tribal community) to leave the village.
Bakarwal is a Sunni-Muslim nomadic tribe. Most of them are goatherds and shepherds. They are found in the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan and in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan. The community says that they are often victims of discrimination.
However, while the case stirred several protests, one woman became the centre of the spotlight, Deepika Singh Rajawat.
She has seen it all, catapult rise and fall, allegations, disappointment, controversy, and in the end, justice.
Days after a special court in Pathankot convicted six of the seven accused in the Kathua rape-and-murder case, Deepika Singh Rajawat opens up about how from being a lawyer for the victim’s family to being cornered by society, she has been through a difficult journey.
“I Had No Role To Play In The Courtroom”
Talking to The Logical Indian, Deepika says, “When I heard about the brutal case, I was shaken to the core. Although I knew that it would put my life at risk, although I knew it would put my family’s life at stake, I made up my mind to pursue the case because I wanted to be a good citizen, a true mother, a strong woman and a responsible lawyer.”
“While everyone seemed to back out, I knew that the child’s parents needed me. I did not even think about who is a Hindu and who is a Muslim, I did not care about the communal colours that were being given to the case. For me, the accused were people who deserved punishment and the victim was a girl who deserved justice.”
While Deepika steadfastly says that she did everything in her power to help the family, the family moved an application in the Pathankot court to remove her as their lawyer last year, alleging that she appeared in only two out of hundreds of hearings in the special court of Pathankot.
“As a private lawyer, I have absolutely no role to play in the hearings. My main job was to keep an eye on the trial and ensure everything went right. Even if I was present in the hearings along with the four public prosecutors, I would not be allowed to talk, argue or cross-question. That is the prosecutors’ job. I was honestly keeping a watch on the trial, I was standing with the victim’s parents.”
However, her immediate reaction to her recusal did not go down well with many of her supporters.
In a tweet, she had written, “It is the human tendency which travels in genes”, referring to how she was removed as the lawyer as soon the the “rainy days” passed.
I was there with them when no one was. Now since the rainy days have passed, they are winding up with me just because I could not regularly attend the trial which is taken care of by senior criminal lawyers.
I don't blame them. it is the human tendency which travels in genes.
— Deepika Singh Rajawat (@DeepikaSRajawat) November 14, 2018
When her tweet was slammed, she again took to Twitter, writing, “I never questioned genes of Gujjars or any other community”.
I never questioned genes of Gujjars or any other community.
It was all about human tendency and I stick to what I said.
If people are trying to misinterpret it….it is their problem not mine. Clarification is only for my supporters rest I don't care.
— Deepika Singh Rajawat (@DeepikaSRajawat) November 17, 2018
“I have been misunderstood and accused of what I have not done, ” Deepika clarified, “I stood by the family when people labelled me as anti-national and anti-Hindu. My motive was to transfer the trial from Kathua to a safer place. When the case was transferred to Pathankot, four public prosecutors were appointed to conduct the trial.”
“If the parents wanted me to perform the duties of a public prosecutor, they were supposed to get me appointed as a special public prosecutor, but they did not. I had no role to play in the courtroom.”
“Can Publicity Be More Important To Me Than My Life?”
Deepika says that she stood with the family despite being threatened, harassed, abused and intimidated. She was socially boycotted and her community and fraternity went against her.
“I know I was true to my job. I did not betray the family, I stuck to them until the very end. Even on the day of the verdict, I was in touch with the journalists, the public prosecutors and anyone and everyone who could keep me updated,” says Deepika.
“I have faced harassment of all kinds. When I took up the case, people who supported the accused threatened to ruin me. After I was removed as the lawyer, I was accused of being selfish and abandoning the girl’s parents. I was accused of being involved in the case to gain publicity.”
Deepika stressed on the fact that if she had stuck to the parents in the worst of times, despite being cornered and harassed, why would she leave them later?
“I do not hold a grudge against the girl’s family. I can understand what they must have been though. But it was a bad feeling. I felt very disappointed. I was broken,” Deepika says.
She was not allowed to rent any house in Jammu. No one would want to accommodate an “anti-Hindu” or an “anti-national”, she said.
Deepika, who is now living in a government house, is still finding it difficult to get a house for herself. Even after all these months, not much has really changed.
“However, ever since the verdict came out, I am not being trolled as much as I usually was. People are thinking twice before criticising me,” says Deepika.
“You see, when it comes to good versus evil, the good is bound to win. All those people who created false narratives around me, who gave the case a communal colour, who stood in favour of the accused and tried to prove them not guilty, have miserably failed. Could they convince the court what they tried to convince the world? No.”
Deepika has been once mired in controversy for writing a book on her journey as the Kathua lawyer, with many calling her an opportunist.
“Tell me, can publicity be more important to me than my life?” Deepika asks, “Would I risk my life and take up a case in the course of which I might as well be killed, just because I wanted publicity? Nobody ever bothered to get their facts right.”
I was waiting for this day to share with you all that I have started working on my first book on my journey as a lawyer who took up Kathua case as challenge in the face of threats and intimidation. A lot to share.
Hopefully it will be there with you all a month or so.
— Deepika Singh Rajawat (@DeepikaSRajawat) June 10, 2019
Deepika says that in spite of her fall, some people did appreciate her for taking up a case that no one else would. The respect and appreciation that she has garnered in the course of the journey are what still make her smile.
“The little girl was brutalized and killed and it breaks my heart to imagine what she might have been through. I will live the rest of my life knowing that I did my duty, and in the end, justice was served. That is what matters the most,” Deepika contends.