#MeToo: JNU student accuses J&K activist Talib Hussain of rape 

Talib Hussain, who shot to fame for leading the campaign to seek justice for Kathua rape victim has been accused by a JNU student of raping her. This is the 2nd accusation of rape against the activist

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Talib Hussain, activist and lawyer who shot into prominence after being at the forefront of a campaign to seek justice for an eight-year-old girl who was abducted, raped and murdered in Kathua district in January this year has been accused of rape by one of the students in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

During the time Talib Hussain was leading the cause for Kathua rape victim, he was invited to speak at multiple platforms like student conventions at universities like JNU, AMU, MANUU. He spoke about many issues pertaining to the vulnerabilities of the Gujjar-Bakarwal community, with reference to the Forest Rights Act. The victim attended one such event in JNU on Mrach 27.

She has given her first person account to the news website FirstPost.

“I was one of those students who had invited him to JNU campus. But subsequently, in his personal conversations with me, he proved to be very invasive of personal boundaries. He asked me a lot of questions about my family, my research work, and my political beliefs. I would not have minded any of this had he not abruptly asked me one day to do “nikaah” with him... Often he would call me late at night; while I enquired about his safety... he would ignore my concerned questions and describe his sexual fantasies about me.

On 27 April, he messaged me to say that he would be arriving in Delhi that evening and that I should meet him. I did not want to; instead, I went out for dinner with some of my friends. But he called me and insisted that he would come to JNU itself to meet me... he kept calling me non-stop, insisting that I should return to campus at once because he was waiting outside the north gate for me...He called me 40 times that night (I noted this on my call log the next day).

Eventually, I gave in, and went to meet him, ignoring my own uneasy premonition of danger. I asked a friend to drop me outside the JNU main gate; he was waiting in a rented car a little distance away from the gate. He asked me to get inside the car and I obeyed him. After half an hour’s drive, at 12:30 AM, we reached a lane in the Batla House locality. My feeling of ominous unease had peaked by now but there was no way I could escape; I found myself in unfamiliar surroundings late at night and the only way forward was in the direction my predator took me. He ushered me into a one-room flat on the second/third floor of a building. I knew what was going to happen next: he would demand sex from me, I would refuse to give consent, and he would end up raping me. My fears turned out to be right.

That night, mine was NOT a feeble no. I threatened to expose him to all my friends in JNU, I pleaded with him, I even physically wrestled against his brute strength; but my resistance seemed too frail compared to his brutality. I remember crying in pain; but instead, he mocked me, saying “Tum bohot naazuk ho.” All the while he raped me, he kept insisting that he would do “nikaah” with me, as if by declaring his intention to marry he would legitimise what he was doing.

I was in great pain after that night; consultation with gynaecologists revealed that I had suffered an anal fissure. The injury remained for at least two weeks; during this time my pain and anger made me muster the courage to confront my rapist and demand that he acknowledge his crime. But his response was typical: he did not INTEND to hurt me, he had made a mistake, and why had I not stopped him then?” she stated, as reported by FirstPost.

After the girl came out with her harrowing account, eminent Supreme Court lawyer Indira Jaising has reportedly disassociated herself from Talib’s case as she was representing his family in Supreme Court. His family had alleged that Talib was being totured in prison.

Advocate Indira Jaising issued a formal statement saying that she does not “intend to continue to appear on behalf of Talib Hussain anymore.” Her statement can be read here:

“I have learnt about the allegations of rape by a survivor who is a student at JNU  for the first time from the FirstPost  article published today. Although the survivor has not named the person who raped her, the obvious reference is to Talib Hussain. FirstPost has stated that they have in accordance with journalistic ethics done their due diligence and verified the allegations to the best of their ability which I appreciate.

I had, on the instructions and advise of the biological father of deceased rape victim of Kathua, appeared for the father to seek justice for the 8-year-old victim of the Bakarwal community and sought the transfer of the case form Kathua to Pathankot. Talib was one of the activists who first brought the rape and murder of the child to public attention. Given the communally charged atmosphere around the case, protection was sought for the lawyer for the family, Deepika Singh Rajawat, and for Talib Hussain, who is himself a Bakarwal, and was the first person to alert the public of the murder and rape.

Since then, Talib Hussain has been accused in two cases — one by his wife and one by his sister-in-law, alleging domestic violence and rape, respectively. However, his family had filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that they were eyewitnesses to his torture in prison. Since I believe that torture in prison is a gross violation of the right to life,  I  represented his family in the Supreme Court in a petition limited to an enquiry into his torture.

In the light of the article published today in FirstPost,  I do not intend to continue to appear on behalf of Talib Hussain anymore. I take the decision in view of my full support of the #MeToo movement.

The legal profession has a  “Cab-Rank rule”, which states that ordinarily no advocate will withdraw from engagements once accepted without sufficient cause. In my opinion the allegations made in the FirstPostarticle are sufficient cause for me to take the decision to withdraw from this case. The Bar Council of India Rules in the chapter for “Duties To Clients”does provide an advocate the exception to withdraw from services to a client if there is “sufficient cause”. This rule reads as:

“An advocate should not ordinarily withdraw from serving a client once he has agreed to serve them. He can withdraw only if he has a sufficient cause and by giving reasonable and sufficient notice to the client. Upon withdrawal, he shall refund such part of the fee that has not accrued to the client.”

Since I had appeared pro bono, the question of returning fees does not arise. I am committed to the #MeToo movement, and stand with the student’s right to speak in the public domain without fear of reprisals. My continued appearance for Talib, even though limited to his allegations of torture, will be inconsistent with my support for the #MeToo movement. I will continue to support the family of the victim of the Kathua rape and murder.

I believe that a lawyer is not the hired spokesperson of a client, but has a social obligations and public responsibilities that go beyond the profession. It is their duty to present to the Court facts as they see them. It  is the obligation of lawyers to uphold public interest. My social commitment to the #MeToo movement overrides my professional engagement, and therefore  I have taken a conscious decision to stop representing Talib Hussain in any court.

I consider the #MeToo movement to be revolutionary and transformative in its content. In several of the cases in which I have appeared in the recent past, I have argued for upholding constitutional morality. I believe that there is an inseparable link between justice, morality, and constitutional law. In a recent speech delivered on the invitation of The Indian Express by the then Chief Justice designate, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, he pointed out that what is needed is a revolution of the legal system and not just  reform. I am in complete agreement with the Chief Justice of India.  The #MeToo movement has come organically to the doorstep of the law. There is no going back to the status quo.”

This is the second accusation of rape against Talib Hussain.

Talib Hussain had been arrested for allegedly raping a woman in Jammu and Kashmir's Samba district, the police said. Talib Hussain was arrested following a complaint lodged by a woman who is his relative, a police official said.

The complainant said she remained silent for so long as Hussain had threatened to kill her and that she told her husband about the rape on Tuesday only, the police official said.

The official said the activist had also been booked under the Arms Act and an probe had been launched in the case.

In June, Hussain's estranged wife registered a case against him for allegedly torturing her and demanding dowry. He was granted anticipatory bail two months after being arrested, by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court in the case.

(with inputs from agencies and Firstpost)

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Published: 20 Oct 2018, 4:08 PM