A group of slogan-raising men had assembled outside the residence of lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat in Jammu late on Tuesday night, a day after a cartoon she posted on micro-blogging site Twitter stirred controversy.
Rajawat, who received limelight for representing the victim’s family in Kathua rape and murder case in 2018, told NewsClick that a mob gathered outside her accommodation, raised slogans and gave her death threat by chanting “Deepika teri kabar khudegi, Jammu Kashmir ki dharti pe (Deepika your grave will be dug in the land of Jammu and Kashmir).”
Narrating the sequence of events, Rajawat said that it was 12.30 am in the night when she heard few men shouting her name. “I was scared to death. I alerted my PSOs and phoned IG Jammu who responded immediately and sent police who later cleared the mob,” she said.
The cartoon posted by Rajawat, with a caption “Irony,” juxtaposed two paradoxical scenes: in one scene, a man touching feet of a female Hindu deity during the nine-day Hindu festival of Navratri; in the other scene, with the header “Other Days,” the same man is aggressively holding both legs of a woman, depicting sexual violence.
The cartoon was accused of hurting Hindu religious sentiments resulting in a section of social media users demanding Rajawat’s arrest. Since then, as per Rajawat, she and her family have been receiving calls threatening her to remove the cartoon and tender an apology.
“Don’t rapes happen? If they can prove that rapes don’t happen in India then I will tender a public apology. I have also not removed the cartoon as it was not meant to hurt religious sentiments but to highlight the hypocrisy of the society towards women,” Rajawat said.
Rajawat personally identified the mob as related to right-wing Hindu groups and said that it was an attempt to silence her. “At that time, I felt like Gauri Lankesh. Her image kept crossing my mind. I was shivering,” the lawyer said. Gauri Lankesh, a journalist known to be critical of the right-wing and accused of “outraging the sentiments of Hindus”, was shot dead by bike-borne assailant outsider her residence on September 5, 2017.
Much solidarity with Rajawat has also poured in from several sections including Bollywood actors, directors, lawyers, and opposition leaders who are tweeting using the hashtag #IStandWithDeepikaRajawat.
In 2018, Rajaswat faced a similar backlash when she took up the case of a minor Bakarwal girl who was raped and murdered in Kathua. She was then accused of being “anti-Hindu.” Later, the victim’s family had removed her from the case by accusing her of “not attending the court proceedings.”
Rajawat believes that she has been targeted for being vocal against policies of the present government. “They wanted to threaten to silence me as I am vocal against the Modi government and its policies.”
In Jammu, which has a prominent presence of right wing politics, it has become risky to voice dissent, especially after the abrogation of Article 370 last year. Last month, a young man popular as the Mask Man was taken away by the police and was released after being questioned for hours after he silently held a placard questioning the government and its promises.