October 21, 2018
Even as the Kathua rape and murder case became a cause of much religious polarisation earlier this year, advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat sought to transcend those barriers by representing the victim’s family in court. Rajawat has received — and continues to receive — both effusive praise and vitriolic abuse for her decision to take up the case.
On Sunday, she will receive the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice — an initiative of the Harmony Foundation — at an event in Mumbai. She will receive the recognition for “defying threats and intimidation to ensure justice for the underage minor victim of rape and murder”. Speaking with Firstpost, Rajawat said that getting the award is a “source of strength and courage” for her. She also expressed her views on a host of issues including the developments in the Kathua rape and murder case, accountability of the media, the death penalty and the #MeToo movement. Following are edited excerpts from the interview:
What challenges have you been facing since you decide to represent the victim’s family in the Kathua rape and murder case?
The most significant challenge has been that of fighting people from my community. Most people from the majority community are opposed to my stand. I have faced a lot of abuse and threats on social media, which was something I experienced for the first time. However, I have been facing them with pride, because I know that I am fighting for an 8-year-old child. My only motive is to secure justice for her.
I have a daughter who is six years old, and so I can understand the pain of the family of the victim in this case. That is how I approached the family and offered my services as a lawyer. I feel that if I would not have done so, they may not have gotten support from anyone.
However, even after so many months, some people still deal with me as though I have committed some offence. While I have received appreciation in the country and even outside, at many native place, a large proportion of the population have hatred towards me. Perhaps, they feel that I took a stand against my own community and supported another community. However, I feel that as a lawyer, I should focus on the client, and not the religion of the client. Even if people from my community disown me, I want to ensure justice for the child.
Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat bags Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice -2018.
Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice 2018 honours sexual abuse survivors, persons fighting for empowering women.
The Harmony Foundation hosted the 14th annual Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice (MTMA) at the Taj Lands End, Bandra on Sunday, 21 October 2018 where those who have worked to help rescue women and children from captivity, and also survivors of sexual abuse and slavery who are now leading the fight against this social evil were honoured.
MTMA, instituted in the name of Mother Teresa, is the only award ceremony in the world hosted in her name which is endorsed by the Missionaries of Charity, the organization founded by Mother Teresa.
Several international and national awardees were honoured at the event where the Harmony Foundation raised a battle cry against exploitation and sexual abuse in all forms and vowed to sensitize masses against this evil.
Among those honoured at the MTMA was Adv. Deepika Rajawat, who has valiantly fought to seek justice in the heinous Kathua incident. Speaking at the award ceremony, Dr. Abraham Mathai, the founder chairman of Harmony Foundation said, “It is shocking that despite being in the twenty first century, we are still discussing about women and children being protected against abuse – this just shows that we still have a long way to go. Our aim is to ensure that women and children everywhere can live free from fear of exploitation and never have to face abuse in any form. We have decided to devote our time and effort to rally against abuse of women and children in every form.”
Inspite of intimidation and threats Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat who is working for the protection of Human Rights in the state of Jammu and Kashmir since 2008, has greatly been admired for her selfless act of representing the family of eight year old victim of rape and murder in Kathua that took place in the beginning of this year.
She has been bestowed with prestigious Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice, 2018 as support and encouragement to her in the dispensation of justice for the victim of Kathua Board by Harmony Foundation, Mumbai.
Each year, individuals and organisations receive this very prestigious award for exceptional service to humanity; past recipients of which include Nobel Laureates like UNHCR- The Refugee Agency, Malala Yousafzai, HH Dalai Lama, Medicines Sans Frontiers; Nation Premiers like President of Ghana HE Nana Akufo-Addo; Prime Minister of Malaysia HE Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, HH Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs & Intl Cooperation), Baroness Caroline Cox (former Deputy Speaker of the United Kingdom’s House of Lords), Priyanka Chopra (UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Present at the award ceremony were Amruta Fadnavis, who has been active at the forefront in social causes and is the wife of the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Maharashtra; BJP Mumbai chief Mr. Ashish Shelar; patrons of Harmony foundation including noted filmmaker Mr. Mahesh Bhatt and Ms. Soni Razdan; prominent members of civil society and members of the diplomatic corps.
Earlier this year, Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat has been conferred with Women of the Year Award by Indian Merchants Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ladies Wing, Mumbai in June 2018 at Mumbai for her contribution in women welfare initiatives. She has also been awarded with Humanitarian Award 2008 by Trinjan at festival of Mothers and Daughters at Vancouver BC Canada on June 24th 2018.
Deepika has been awarded with Women of the Centaury Award at Salute Success 2018 Thalilulam Block Panchayath Kazhimbram, Kerala on 17th June 2018 at Kochi for being a courageous woman.
Rajawat who has been working for Human Rights specially Child Rights and Women Rights since 2008, has also been awarded with Rippen Kapoor Fellowship in 2008 by Child Rights and You (CRY) for working on the Child Rights Violations in the militancy infested J&K.
She was also awarded with Sonjoy Gosh Media Fellowship by Charkha Foundation in 2008 for conducting study on the Child Rights Violations in the militancy infested areas of Jammu province.
Deepika who is heading Voice for Rights an NGO working for the protection of Human Rights in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is also awarded with Life Saver Award for contributing services for the children suffering from Thalassemia in Jammu by Department of Immunohematology Blood Transfusion & Medicine, Government Medial College Jammu on National Blood Donation day observed across the country on October 1, 2009.
For highlighting the plight of the children in the conflict ridden areas of Jammu region (Jammu and Kashmir) Deepika Singh Rajawat has also received UNFPA -Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2009-10 for Northern region on April 14, 2010 at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
List of Awardees
Dr. Oby Ezekwesili
Ardent and passionate advocate who is a ray of hope for women in slavery and captivity.
Dr. Nashwa Al Ruwaini
An intrepid and artistic entrepreneur and philanthropist who has remarkably transformed the outlook of women
A globally renowned Yazidi survivor and human rights activist who fights to end the use of rape as a weapon of war and armed conflict
Dr. Denis Mukwege
Providing medical, legal, psychological and economic support to the survivors of rape
Sister Lucy Kurien
Working ardently and passionately to restore the dignity of destitute women to lead a normal life.
Introducing reforms that have provided legal, medical and counselling services to women who are victims of violence
Campaigner for the safety of women and right to inclusion in nation building
A prolific campaigner and active voice for the victims of acid attack
Advocate Deepika Singh Rajawat
Defying threats and intimidation to ensure justice for the underage minor victim of rape and murder
Equipping rural women with technical skills to advance and modernize their communities
Women for Afghan Women
Integrating women and girls to participate in all spheres of public life as equal citizens
A pacesetter who has set an example nationally for women to emulate
Laila Talo Khudher Alali
For overcoming sexual abuse & slavery and being at the forefront in the battle against
sexual exploitation of Yazidi Women
Idris Bashar Silo Taha
Facilitating daring rescue missions inspired by selfless acts of mercy at great personal
risk and safety.
A leading advocate against child marriage and fierce campaigner for the education of
the Girl Child
Economically empowering women from marginalized sections of society to become
Shahida Akter Shorna
Fighting against child marriage and promoting the right to education of the girl child