Rape has no religion, says Kashmiri Pandit lawyer fighting for Kathua girl
Crimes as heinous as rape have no religion, a lawyer waging a legal battle on behalf of an eight-year-old girl raped and murdered in Jammu’s Kathua said on Thursday, vowing to ensure punishment for the guilty in the case that has sparked outrage across the country.
Deepika Thusoo Singh, 38, is a Kashmiri Pandit whose family migrated to Jammu from their ancestral village Karihama in North Kashmir in 1986, four years before thousands of Hindus left the Valley over fears of attacks by militants.
It was after Singh filed a writ petition that the Jammu and Kashmir high court started monitoring the case and the Crime Branch took over investigation into the crime that has sharpened the state’s religious divide.
Singh said she has been threatened by Jammu’s lawyers who have defended the accused and demanded a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Singh said she “feels ashamed that slogans like ‘Bharat mata ki jai’ are being used in support of the rape accused”.
“It’s a heart-wrenching rape of a minor girl and we should all remember (that) crimes like this have no religion and colour,” she told Hindustan Times over phone from Jammu. “We can’t raise these slogans for rapists.”
Singh said she recently got a verdict in favour of a maid who was raped by a sitting judge in Jammu. “She was Hindu; how is this minor girl any different than her,” she said.
The minor victim of Kathua belonged to the Muslim Bakarwal community. Police said the accused had planned the crime to terrorise the community into leaving their homes in Kathua.
A human rights lawyer, Singh said she has been given security cover after she wrote to the chief justice of the high court about the alleged threats.
“A senior lawyer who is spearheading the protests asked me to stop appearing for my cases as the bar association is on strike,” she said. “He threatened me by saying, ‘yahan gandgi machane ki zarurat nahi (don’t spread muck here)’.”
A group of lawyers had tried to prevent police from filing the charge sheet in court, accusing the investigators of harassing the Hindu community.
“If they (lawyers) say the real culprits are being shielded, the onus is on them to name the real culprits,” Singh said.
“They are calling me anti-national and anti-Jammu; I am not an alien, I am from Jammu,” she added.
Singh also challenged those supporting the accused to contest the investigation in court.
“If they fought in court, there would have been no TV cameras, no photographers, so who would have seen the drama. So they are hitting the road,” she added.
Singh said she approached the victim’s family after reading newspapers reports about the rape in January this year.
“When I saw the newspaper reports initially, I felt something was not right in this case as police reports said the body was found in a jungle and the clothes were absolutely clean,” said the lawyer, a mother to a five-year-old girl.
“The family is very poor, they are illiterate. They need our support,” she said.
Singh, married to a retired army officer from Rajasthan, urged the people of Jammu not to fall prey to communal forces.
Referring to stringent new laws enacted after the gang rape and murder of a paramedic in a moving bus in Delhi six years ago, she said that “post Nirbhaya a lot has changed in the definition of the crime”.
“I realise that people in Kashmir, even the police, are still talking about the old definitions of rape,” she added.