Women On Top
Meet Deepika Singh Rajwat, The Human Rights Lawyer Fighting For The Unheard
In a country that boasts of diversity, an 8-year-old girl was abducted, raped and killed all because of a deeply “communal” agenda. Yes, we are talking about the brutal rape of Asifa Bano. While the entire country moaned her death, we hoped that justice would be delivered; enter Deepika Singh Rajwat, a human rights lawyer and superhero (or should we say heroine) who wore not a cape, but a black lawyer’s robe. She took up Asifa’s case, and was on a mission to bring justice to the little girl, who simply cannot speak for herself anymore.
Deepika fearlessly fought for the Kathua case rape victim, undeterred by the death threats she received. But this was not the first time this fierce lawyer chose to take up a sensitive, and highly political case like this. Earlier, she had taken up the case of a 12-year-old girl who died under suspicious circumstances at an advocate’s house!
Deepika also runs an NGO called Voice for Rights, which takes up cases of violation of human rights against women and children, and actively works for juvenile justice.
Deepika Singh Rajwat, has now become a household name that everyone must know. As Deepika received the Woman of The Year Award by IMC Ladies Wing, we caught up with this #BossLady to know what keeps her going in her fight for justice. Her answers are why we think she is Hauterfly’s Woman On Top!
You’ve been fighting against human right’s abuse for a long time now? What made you leave the comfort of corporate law to take up such issues?
It is just commitment to my work that keeps me going. I get connected to these issues, and that is my motivation. Over and above that, I am a mother, I am a woman, and I am a lawyer; that is sufficient motivation for me.
Do you think winning an award like you did will motivate other lawyers to fight for these issues?
Winning an award is always motivation; I call it recognition. But will it make people work like I do? I don’t think so. To work for the unheard, as I do, you need a different kind of motivation. The motivation to win an award, is not sufficient to keep up the fight. For that, you need to connect yourself with the issue. Even when lies were attached to me, the nation was rewarding and supporting me. It made me feel like I have support.
When it comes to women’s rights in our country, what do think is the biggest problem?
Ignorance. When you are ignorant, you cannot do anything; when you know everything, you can do everything. Anyone can take up the cause with courage and conviction, if they realise the strength they have, and the role they can play. I realise my strength, and I realise that I have the ways and means to do it.
What part do you think social media plays in creating awareness?
Social media is a great platform to use your freedom of speech and expression. So yes, it is a massive tool for creating awareness. At the same time, I believe it needs to be used in a proper way. It should not be used to defame and abuse anyone, it should not be used for devastation or communal violence for that matter. It should be used for betterment, and this sense should prevail among people.
That said, national media can also play a detrimental role at times. For instance, Zee News has caused irreparable damage to me. I cannot go to everyone and clear my stance. Before carrying a story about me, the channel didn’t even feel the need to check the facts with me. They made me look like a vampire, an anti-nationalist for taking up Asifa’s case. I have sent them a legal notice, but I feel like filing a case against them too. But, I get so busy with my work that I don’t find time for these trivial things.
After the Kathua case, you became a household name. How do you handle the media attention?
I am really thankful to my nation, I am thankful to you! I have tears in my eyes every time people recognise me, stop me, and bless me. I feel nothing is impossible. Sure I am in seventh heaven, but I am not wearing it on my sleeve. I am not misusing my recognition. I like to stay down to earth, and still be connected to people who are unheard.
What is it that lies on the road ahead for you?
The Kathua case is not the last one, I still have a lot to do in my country. Now the mandate has expanded. I want to work through the country, and if given a chance, even though the world. I believe we all have a role to play, we all have something to do, change will only come when we all realise our role and responsibility.
Do you see a change in the citizens of India after the voice you have raised?
Of course! Ultimately people understand the issues. Lynching a Dalit man or a Dalit woman, is something that is just not right. A man who wanted to be on a ghodhi on the day of his wedding (a practice still considered an exclusive privilege for the upper caste) was killed, and we all came together to condemn it. The right to be on a ghodi on your wedding day is one that belongs to everyone and for god sake; we need to understand this.
Even Hollywood actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson tweeted praising you? What do you have to say about that?
Everyone around was excited about it, and so was I. However, the real award would be when our country is abuse-free. Emma Watson supporting me gave me strength. When you get support from such people, you always feel like you are not alone, you have someone watching over you, so I have taken it in a very positive way. In my opinion, if she holds that power, then she should come and work for children in India. Not just Emma, everyone should, especially the celebrities of our country.
Your advice to women who look up to you is…
I want every woman to understand the potential and voice they have. I believe they should not waste their lives on Facebook walls, and on silly things. They should come forth and utilise their potential in a proper way, empowering themselves and others. When our country has goddesses like Durga, Kali and Saraswati, then why can’t we be like that? We should channelise our potential in a proper way.