"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Huge victory for Human Rights Defender who was honoured in Canada Featured

 

It was a day of victory for a human rights lawyer who fought for justice to the family of an eight-year-old victim of rape and murder.

Deepika Singh Rajawat stepped forward at personal risk to defend the family of Asifa Bano, a Muslim nomad girl who was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed by Hindu fundamentalists in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in January 2018.

The horrific crime attracted international attention and there were angry demonstrations in Vancouver last year.

Those involved in the conspiracy wanted to terrorize and humiliate Muslims in the area by using rape as a weapon. 

On Monday, June 10 the special court in India convicted six people involved in the incident. Of them, three have been given life imprisonment, while three police officers have been sentenced for five years each for destroying the evidence.

The convicts include Sanji Ram, the mastermind of the conspiracy.  

Rajawat faced threats and intimidation in the deeply polarized society of India. The accused enjoyed the patronage of the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which holds power. Thanks to her advocacy, the case was transferred outside Jammu and Kashmir to ensure a fair trial.

Rajawat was honoured last month in Vancouver by Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI) with a medal of courage.

During her week-long tour, she visited Victoria, where she was introduced to the BC Legislature by Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh. Singh had raised the issue of Asifa Bano in the legislature last year. Rajawat was welcomed by the members with a huge round of applause. Later that day, she met BC Premier John Horgan and other elected officials in the legislature.

She was given certificates of appreciation by two elected officials – Ravi Kahlon and Randeep Singh Sarai - separately at their constituency offices. Kahlon is a Parliamentary Secretary of Sports and Multiculturalism and MLA from North Delta, while Sarai is a Member of Parliament from Surrey Centre.

Rajawat was also honoured at the Abbotsford Heritage Gurdwara that was established by the founders of the Ghadar Party which fought against the British occupation of India. Likewise, the Abbotsford-based Baba Banda Singh Bahadur Society and Guru Nanak Sikh temple Surrey-Delta honoured her separately.

 

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