Srinagar: Lawyer Deepika Singh Rajawat, who played an important role in the Kathua rape case, is finding it difficult to rent a home in Jammu.
Rajawat’s housing problem began after the Bakharwal family, whose case made her an overnight star, removed her as their lawyer. Rajawat received rape and death threats, and was constantly trolled, following which then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti provided her with government accommodation.
The lawyer lives in a government quarter in Gandhi Nagar, with her six-year-old daughter. Threats against her have increased manifold over the course of the past few weeks, she says, as the family’s application to remove her as their lawyer came to light.
Since governor’s rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir, things have become harder for her. Her accommodation was provided on Mufti’s verbal orders and Rajawat was told to vacate immediately after she was removed from the Kathua case.
Moreover, three personal security officers (PSOs) – two for her and one for her daughter – had been assigned. She told The Wire that her daughter’s PSO was reassigned, though there has been no change in the circumstances around her safety.
Because of constant harassment by officials of the estates department, even Rajawat wishes to vacate the premises. But she has found that people in Jammu are unwilling to rent houses to her. The Kathua case has created a negative image about the activist.
Another reason is supposedly the landlords’ unwillingness to accommodate the PSOs and the constant media persons who come to visit her. Landlords also fear that their house will be targeted by those who wish to harm her. Rajawat now faces the prospect of being homeless with her six-year-old daughter.
The harassment she faced from officials reduced after former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted about the matter.
How strange- a young woman who stood against the storm of barbarity to defend the little girl is being forced to vacate the govt accommodation. Much needed intervention by HE @jandkgovernor for her safety and security. https://t.co/aPLUfhnun8
— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) November 29, 2018
Left with no choice
But she does not think she has any other option but to vacate the government accommodation. She told The Wire, “I don’t want to live in this house. I only came here because there was a threat to my life and my daughter’s security. But since I don’t own a house, I have to rent one. People are not ready to let out their house to me. There has been such a wave against me, it is astonishing. Is this how our society treats an activist?”
She also said, “I have been looking for places, but every time I find one, people refuse at the last moment. Sometimes, they refuse immediately after they find out my name. They ask around about me and say they don’t want any trouble. Where am I to go?”
The lawyer said she also spoke to Jammu’s IGP about the PSO assigned to her daughter. “I was informed that the man had only been reassigned for a day. Then two and three days passed and I reached out to the PSO and he told me he had been reassigned for a longer duration.”
She spoke to the IGP again, who said her daughter did not need a PSO anymore. “She is just six and the kind of trolling and threats I have to face, I constantly worry about her. This is just not done,” says Rajawat.
‘Following general procedure’
Tariq Hussain Ganai, the deputy director estates, said that the government accommodation was provided to Rajawat by the elected government. “I was not the deputy director at the time, so I won’t be able to say how she occupied the place without a formal order. But there is an Eviction Act in place. If she has been allowed to stay by some authority, in that case, a proposal will be submitted. As of now, no order has reached my office,” he said.
On being asked about the harassment by lower officials, he said, “Down the line, the officers will ask her to produce the order. We are looking for a general review whether there is any order or not. That is the general procedure and not just specifically for her. When the ground level report is submitted to my office, only then some decision can be taken.”
Jammu IGP S.D. Singh Jamwal said the security wing assigns PSOs according to the categorisation of threat against a person. He said he had no idea about the reassignment of the PSO provided to Rajawat’s daughter. “I haven’t received any harassment complaints regarding the estates department either,” he said.