Deepika’s stand has made her a ‘traitor’ to the local lawyer fraternity, which has gained international notoriety for supporting the suspects.
New Delhi: Deepika Singh, 38, is seen as possibly the last holdout in a fraternity making international headlines for rallying in support of men accused of raping and killing a child and painting a gruesome crime in communal shades.
The young Kashmiri Pandit works as a lawyer in Jammu. In standing up for the eight-year-old girl brutalised in Kathua, she has not just alienated her colleagues, but also earned their anger. Threats — some overt, most covert — have followed, but Deepika has refused to back down, saying she will ensure the girl gets the justice she was deprived of in life.
“After learning about the horrendous case, I reached out to the family of the girl from the Bakerwal community,” the lawyer told ThePrint.
“Since there were apprehensions that the J&K police crime branch would not conduct a fair investigation, I moved the high court on behalf of the family, and filed a petition seeking a court-monitored probe by an independent agency,” she added.
“Thankfully, the chargesheets filed (by the crime branch) reveals the truth, and it has caused worry among those opposing the case. The chargesheets have exposed them completely.”
The lawyers of Jammu are courting international notoriety for their strident protests in support of the accused. While the demand for a CBI inquiry was among the reasons cited for this week’s Jammu bandh called by the Jammu bar association, lawyers in Kathua tried to prevent crime branch officers from filing one of the chargesheets, against the seven accused. A second, against the juvenile suspect, was filed later.
In this light, Deepika’s stand has made her a traitor to her colleagues. Deepika said the chief of the Jammu bar association, B.S. Slathia, had himself called her up to discourage her. “The president of the Jammu bar association, B.S. Slathia, called me. They tried to weaken me, and get me to back off. I was told that I should not appear in the case and instead support the bandh call,” she said.
Deepika, however, stated that she had no patience for what she describes as a ruse to serve “vested interests”.
“Slathia should have resorted to proper legal remedy by filing a writ petition seeking the transfer of the case to the CBI, but he just wanted to create melodrama,” she said. “Their intention was to create this drama for political vested interests. They chose this criminal case as the one to play with,” Deepika added. “Now they know things got out of control, with the chargesheets revealing the details of the crime.’’
Married to an Army officer, Deepika studied in Jammu. Her family moved there in the 1980s, before the Pandit exodus from Kashmir began. She said her crusade for justice was rooted in her deep love of the land.
“Meri janm bhumi Kashmir hain, aur karm bhumi Jammu (My birthplace is Kashmir and my workplace Jammu). I am determined to deliver justice,” she added.
Talib Hussain, a Bakerwal forest conservation activist who helped Deepika get in touch with the family of the victim, said he had full faith the lawyer would hold her ground against the threats of her colleagues. The child’s family believed the same, he added.
“In this polarising atmosphere, the girl’s family, who are in complete distress, have full faith in Deepika, who stepped up to fight for them,” he said. “She faces hostility from colleagues in court, but we trust her determination to deliver justice,” Hussain told ThePrint.
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