Gurpreet Singh: Huge win for defender of human rights who was honoured in British Columbia

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      An Indian lawyer has claimed victory after having fought for justice for the family of an eight-year-old girl who was murdered in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

      Deepika Singh Rajawat stepped forward at personal risk to defend the family of Asifa Bano, a Muslim nomad girl. She was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed by Hindu fundamentalists 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 this part of India by using rape as a weapon. 

      On Monday (June 10), a special court in India convicted six people involved in the incident.

      Three received life imprisonment, while three police officers have been sentenced for five years each for destroying the evidence.

      The convicted men included Sanji Ram, who was the mastermind of the conspiracy.  

      For standing up for the girl's family, Rajawat faced threats and intimidation in deeply polarized India.

      The accused, on the other hand, enjoyed the patronage of members of the ruling right-wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

      Thanks to Rajawat's advocacy, the case was transferred outside Jammu and Kashmir to ensure a fair trial.

      The murder of eight-year-old Asifa Bano caused international outrage—this demonstration (above) coincided with Vaisakhi in Surrey in 2018.
      Gurpreet Singh

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

      During her weeklong tour, she visited Victoria where she was introduced to the B.C. legislature by Surrey–Green Timbers NDP MLA Rachna Singh.

      Rajawat was welcomed by the members with a huge round of applause.

      Later that day, she met B.C. premier John Horgan and other elected officials in the legislature.

      Singh also raised the case of Asifa Bano in the legislature last year. 

      In addition, Rajawat received certificates of appreciation by two elected officials—NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon and Liberal MP Randeep Singh Sarai—separately at their constituency offices. Kahlon is parliamentary secretary of sports and multiculturalism and represents North Delta; Sarai's riding is 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 separately honoured her.

      Gurpreet Singh is the husband of NDP MLA Rachna Singh as well as the cofounder of Radical Desi magazine and Indians Abroad for Pluralist India.