A visiting human rights lawyer from India who fought for justice to the family of an eight-year-old victim of rape and murder was honoured at a well-attended public event in Surrey on Saturday (May 18).
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.
Those involved in the conspiracy wanted to terrorize and humiliate Muslims in the area by and using rape as a weapon.
Rajawat faced threats and intimidation in the deeply polarized society of India. The accused continue to enjoy the patronage of the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), which holds power in India.
Rajawat was presented with the Radical Desi medal of courage at the Surrey City Centre Library by members of Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI).
IAPI president Parshotam Dosanjh presented her with the medal amid huge applause.
Radical Desi is an online publication that covers alternative politics and last year it declared Rajawat as its Person of the Year. IAPI and Radical Desi have partnered on number of initiatives.
She was also given a certificate of appreciation by the Surrey–Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh.
Singh raised the murder of Bano in the B.C. legislature last year, and also introduced Rajawat to the B.C. legislature on May 16.
Labour Minister Harry Bains also attended the May 18 event in Surrey, as did two Conservative politicians, Harpreet Singh and Tina Bains, who are both running for the party in the October federal election.
Rajawat spoke at length about the current situation in India where minorities continue to be under attack from BJP supporters who want to transform India into a Hindu theocracy. She also took questions from the audience.
The event was started with a moment of silence for the victims of the Tamil genocide in Sri Lanka.
May 18 marked the tenth anniversary of the repression of Tamils by the Sri Lankan army in the name of a war on Tamil separatists.
Others who spoke on the occasion were IAPI members Rakesh Kumar and Sarabjt Singh Baaz. While Kumar shed light on the policy and mandate of the group, Baaz recited a poem about the empowerment of women.