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"Don’t beg for equality"

Thursday, June 14, 2018

In an interview with Joanne Pinto Pereira and Nakshatra Dharap, Deepika Singh Rajawat shares her crusade in the Kathua rape case that shocked the international community

Vulnerable, yet strong in her resolve to stay on her chartered course to find justice as a lawyer for  Kathua’s eight-year-old Asifa, Deepika Singh Rajawat spoke with raw emotion that touched every person when she was felicitated as Woman of the Year by Indian Merchants Chamber’s Ladies’ wing on June 12.

She agreed a change in the mindset had to be effected right from the institutions of family and school level. “It has to be dealt with holistically,” she said.

“The inequality mindset goes so deep that we cannot even call our country developing. The country where infant girls are raped and the people rise in support of rapists, that country is lagging behind. We see ladies in bikinis in cement commercials. Hamare samaj mein sirf padhe-likhe log nahi hain. To tackle a vast country like India, multiple issues need to be taken care of at once, not just securing the girls. The process is time-consuming. Equality is a fact, so don’t beg for it. Claim it. It is your human right to do so. It is very difficult to deliver justice to the victims of such violence, especially the children. We need to put it in order,” she extols with deep conviction.

 Deepika fearlessly fought for the Kathua case rape victim. Even though she received death threats, nothing deterred her. She runs an NGO called Voice for Rights, which takes up cases of human rights against women and children. She especially fights cases of traffic and of children who are victims of mines and works for juvenile justice. 

Deepika stated: “I am thankful for this award. It is strength, it is something that stays with you. After I took the Kathua case, so many things happened, the nation is with me, but at the same time I have been told that I am an anti-nationalist. If supporting a child is anti-nationalist, then I wear it as a badge. Because for me as a lawyer and an activist, I don’t have a religion, I cannot be selective in choosing cases, I am answerable for everyone. I don’t see whether the victim is Hindu, Dalit or Muslim, that is abusing the case itself. I don’t want to be in that category. This award is an honour as today I am able to speak to my supporters.”

“We need to bring change throughout the country. Why is there so much rape, killing, what is wrong? Are we giving this a thought? Being keyboard warriors is not enough, we all have a responsibility. The real award would be when our nation is abuse-free. And it is our duty to be the voice for the unheard. This award makes me feel accepted post the hostility I encountered in Jammu.“

Women who made the difference

On Tuesday June 12, all roads led to IMC Ladies Wing of Commerce and Industry for their Annual General Meeting wherein stalwarts like Deepika Singh Rajawat, Manju Srivastava, Zarin Daruwala, Rajagopala Chidambaram, Ashok Kurien and Mr. Agnelorajesh Athaide were felicitated for their contribution to their respective fields.

Manju Srivastava, founder of Ekal Bhayan, which has managed to reach out to students in rural areas across India, making it the biggest movement to develop at the grassroots level, was mentioned in a speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi who lauded her efforts. She received The Special Recognition Award by IMC ladies wing.

Manju said: “I am glad to see a predominant women’s presence here. My journey goes back 30 years when we started from the forests of Bihar that is now Jharkhand. When we started we did not realise the volume of work. We took the primary education at the doorstep of tribal children. The word is Ekal, power of one, of one person believes in change then we can make it happen. If poor children cannot go to school then education must go their doorstep. Today we are in 70,000 villages across India, we have covered the whole nation. Ninety per cent of our teachers are young women, that is how we have given economic empowerment in villages. It is a program that starts at the grassroots level. No reservation, no discrimination, irrespective of caste and creed such as in areas like Jammu and Kashmir, borders of Bangladesh, we are there for the sake of humanity and for the sake of educating our children and women. We have curtailed child marriage and early pregnancy through our programs.”

Zarin Daruwala, CEO, Standard Chartered Bank India was awarded for her Outstanding contribution in Banking and Financial services. She said: “When my journey began in the banking sector, things were very different. There was no digitalisation, online banking, ATMs, it was a different world. My biggest learning in this sector has been learning and then unlearning, as one has to keep up pace with the rapid changes. My motto is persistence overcomes resistance.”

The Chief Guest,  Rajagopala Chidambaram, who was the Former Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and is known for his integral role in India’s nuclear weapons program, recounted several instances of women who were accepted without gender tags once they were in power.

The Guest of Honour, Ashok Kurien,  Managing Director of Ambience Publicis Advertising Public Limited endorsed his support of empowerment of women through various initiatives.

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