I have always wondered about the kinds of lawyers who take on cases for the worst kinds of criminals. My lawyer friends tell me it is one of the highest forms of justice, because everyone, no matter what they’ve done, deserves to be adequately represented in a court of law, and that it’s a heart wrenching but noble course of action that many good-hearted lawyers take on with a heavy toll on their mental well-being.
And then there is Jammu-based advocate Ankur Sharma, who’s representing five of the eight accused in the awful Kathua rape case. Sharma does not seem to be a man who has embarked on a noble quest for justice for society’s most damned, but a man with sexist beliefs so deeply encoded into his wiring that he makes insulting comments about women almost accidentally.
Yesterday, Ankur Sharma made some remarkable statements about DSP Shwetambari Sharma, the lone woman officer in the Special Investigative Team (SIT) of the Crime Branch. He told reporters, “Shwetambri kya hai, ladki hai. Uska kitna hi dimaag hoga (What is Shwetambri, she is a girl, how intelligent can she be?) She is a new officer and by showing her a few circumstantial evidences, some people made her believe that the crime has been committed in this fashion.” He went on to ask why, if she had faced “so many hurdles”, she hadn’t complained to her superiors about it.
He was referring to an interview that DSP Sharma recently gave to The Quint, in which she detailed exactly how lawyers and other supporters of the accused in this case tried to thwart her investigation and the filing of the chargesheet. In that interview, she mentions how the supporters of the alleged rapists took out rallies bearing the national flag in support of them and discussed how the accused men emphasised their last names to draw attention to their Brahmin status, even appealing to her on the basis of caste and religion to try and convince her not to file a chargesheet in this case involving a Muslim child. She does invoke the power of Ma Durga a few times in her account, which feels a bit unnecessary, but it’s still a telling description of how difficult it is to do your job when faced with the power of political Hindutva, and a testament to her skill and perseverance that she managed to bring the case this far.
But women investigators do seem to really rub people the wrong way and scare them in a manner that male investigators don’t. Remember when Malayalam actor Dileep, accused of masterminding the abduction and sexual assault of a fellow actor, attacked ADGP Sandhya B, the woman in charge of investigating his case, by claiming that she and his ex-wife, Manju Warrier, were conspiring to keep him in jail? You know, just because, women?