From an Indian village infamous for farmer suicides to a master’s degree in London

master's degree in london
For Deepak Chatap, the most emotional moment of his master's degree in London was when his mother sent him to the airport. Source: Deepak Chatap.

Growing up in Central India’s geographically underdeveloped area infamous for farmer suicides and ultra-poverty, Deepak Chatap never thought he would one day be pursuing a master’s degree in London.

It was a struggle to get basic rights, like roads, hospitals, and government services.

Despite toiling the fields, farmers were paid poorly. Many lived with debt as high as their barriers to justice.

So dire is their situation that India once designated certain districts as “suicide prone.”

Chatap is from Lakhmapur, a village under the government’s Tribal Sub Development Area.

He is currently the first and sole lawyer in his town where the main source of income comes from farming.

A family, with an average of four to five members each, only makes approximately US$1,000 per year here.

“Witnessing injustice towards the farmers steered me to want to bring about social change from an early age,” he says.

But it has never been easy for Chatap and his people. University seemed out of reach, let alone one outside India.

“It is very challenging to encounter socio-economic-linguistic challenges to pursue higher studies abroad for many students like me,” says Chatap.

He never imagined he would be in the UK to pursue a master’s degree in London.

“My journey from Lakhmapur to London is a challenging one,” he says. “I feel happy that my journey inspires many young minds in my homeland.”

How did a farmer’s son from an ultra-poor, marginalised community in India end up pursuing a master’s degree in London?

We caught up with Chatap to learn how he overcame his many obstacles, how he uses the law to bring justice to marginalised communities and his experience pursuing a master’s degree in London.

master's degree in London

Deepak Chatap won the prestigious Chevening Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in London. Source: Deepak Chatap

Before pursuing a master’s degree in London, what were you working as? And what inspired you to study law?

Every person is fighting for survival, but fighting for others’ rights motivates me to extend a helping hand to the underprivileged section of society.

Therefore during my law studies, I started working with a human rights lawyer based in Pune, India.

I learned that the first principle of community-based advocacy is not just going to court to argue on behalf of affected persons but to diagnose the problem and understand its origin.

Further, I worked as a legislative researcher for one of the distinguished members of the state’s legislative assembly.

I also had the opportunity to be the Judicial Intern for Justice M.G. Giratkar at the Bombay High Court, Nagpur Bench.

Moreover, I worked as a drafting member of a private member bill on the National Agricultural Produce Price Fixation Tribunal Bill 2018.

I have written articles in prominent newspapers and authored a book on farm laws, “Farm Laws: Critical Analysis and Need for Agriculture Tribunal”.

This book was published by the then Finance Minister of Maharashtra State. Recognising my social intervention, CORO India awarded me the Samata Fellowship.

I was also recognised with the Youth Inspirator Award 2017 by one of India’s prestigious independent media houses with leadership skills.

I believe that law can be used as an instrument of social change. Therefore, I founded my organisation, the People’s Actions Towards Humanity (PATH) Foundation, along with my peers during my law study.

Through this, I conducted research and analysed the issues of human rights of the focused group; secondly, I filed the cases to elevate the human rights issues of the concentrated group in judicial and quasi-judicial institutions; thirdly, I designed and conducted Constitutional Morality Course with school and college students to enrich constitutional values among them. 

master's degree in London

Before studying for a master’s degree in London, Deepak Chatap established a collective of socially conscious young lawyers from different parts of Maharashtra working with tribal and marginalised groups. Source: Deepak Chatap

Tell us more about how you helped marginalised communities in India.

In the second year of law, Environment Interest Litigation before the National Green Tribunal (Western Zone) filed by my peers and me against a holy shrine in Mumbai for polluting seawater resulted in water purification work being initiated at the shrine.

Similarly, when a case of a farmer’s suicide in the Maharashtra State Secretariat’s office prompted no action against the responsible officials, I felt rightly provoked to file a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission, putting the process for enquiry into immediate action.

The Commission recommended fair compensation to the deceased’s family members. Further, through my organisation, PATH Foundation, I filed a case before the Human Rights Commission against the lack of medical facilities for pregnant women in the tribal Gadchiroli area in September 2020.

Consequently, the Commission appointed a Departmental Inquiry Committee and directed them to submit a report regarding time-bound initiatives on this issue.

In one such instance, nearly 450 contractual health workers — the real COVID-19 warriors — were deprived of their seven-month wages by the Medical College and Hospital Authority of Chandrapur District.

I voluntarily filed their case before the State Human Rights Commission, and later on, workers got unpaid wages from the authority.

My long-term objective was to build a community of changemakers who work at the grassroots level to advance the cause of social justice.

This inspired my peers and me to start a “Certificate Course on Constitutional Morality” to give students and paralegals the tools they need to safeguard their rights.

More than 3,000 students and grassroots leaders enrolled in the program, from which over 600 participants completed the course.

We recently launched the system “My Identity, My Constitution” in V-School App, published at Ambedkar’s Residence in London.

This work helped me to build a strong network among socially conscious students and organisations in my homeland.

master's degree in London

People walk across the Millennium Bridge with St Paul’s Cathedral in the distance in London on October 3, 2023. Source: AFP

Why did you choose to further your studies in the UK and to pursue a master’s degree in London? Why not in your home country?

After completing my five-year law course in India, I decided to work with indigenous communities, non-profit organisations, and policymakers.

With seven years of voluntary experience working in the community, I am convinced that this is the right time to pursue higher studies in human rights law to equip myself with knowledge, skills, and tools that will assist me in scaling up my rights-based intervention.

And this calls for a master’s in the UK due to its rich academic heritage.

Secondly, India and the UK both of these countries are united by the legal democratic system. As we know, India was a part of British rule for nearly 150 years.

Therefore, the UK has influenced the Indian legal system. Many British policymakers’ laws are still prevalent in India, like the Indian Penal Code of 1860, Civil Procedure Code of 1908, etc.

Further, some course modules, like law, rights and social change, Law, Environment and Social Justice etc., resonate with my ongoing work and futuristic approach, which I couldn’t find in India.

Finally, I will gain experience from the cross-cultural network during my stay abroad to create a long-lasting positive impact in my homeland. Therefore I decided to pursue my masters in the UK.

master's degree in London

Deepak Chatap is now a Master of Laws graduate from SOAS University of London. Source: Deepak Chatap

What has been your most memorable academic experience in the UK so far?

The emphasis in the classroom is on critical thinking, which means you’ll be encouraged to discuss your thoughts and analyse everything, even your lectures.

Recently I gave a presentation on “World without borders,” which was appreciated by the professor.

What has been your most memorable non-academic experience in the UK so far?

I was invited as a keynote speaker at the Global Ambedkarite Convention. I gave my first speech in London in the Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s house.

Babasaheb is well known as the architect of the Indian Constitution and was the fearless voice of marginalised sections of India.

He pursued his higher studies in London. He was one of my inspirations, and it was a memorable day for me to give my first speech in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s residence.

Further, I hail from a Vidarbha region wherein the mercury level generally ranges from 40 to 49 degrees Celsius in summer.

However, a few days after arriving, I experienced the first snowfall in my life in London, wherein I also witnessed a temperature of minus five degrees Celsius.

These are my memorable non-academic experiences in the UK.

master's degree in London

What has been the most emotional part of your Chevening journey so far?

I was chosen as a Chevening Scholar at a young age by the FCDO of the UK government. During the last week of June 2022, it was announced.

My nation’s social and mainstream media quickly picked up the news. Many institutions and organisations invited me and felicitated me throughout the span of those two months.

Later, thousands of people came for a felicitation in my house. My family members frequently showed their pride in me.

I’ll never forget the moment my mother picked me up from the airport and I could see she was crying with happiness.

How did you find out about the Chevening Scholarship? Can you detail the application process from start to end please?

Well, one of my law college senior friends received this scholarship in 2018-19. That was the first time I came across this fully funded scholarship of the UK government to pursue master studies in the UK.

The application, interview, and selection stages are crucial in the application process. The application site is open from July 1 until November 1.

Applicants must write four 500-word essays on their leadership abilities, networking skills, course of study, and why they want to study in the UK.

All Chevening applications are subjected to a thorough evaluation and selection procedure. The interview was scheduled for the shortlisted applicants.

Nearly 1,600 scholars were chosen from 60,000 applications from 160 countries worldwide. More information is available on Chevening’s official website,

master's degree in London

Deepak Chatap aims to use his master’s degree in London to promote the human rights of India’s marginalised groups. Source: Deepak Chatap

How do you plan to make a difference with your master’s degree in London?

I want to use the information and global exposure I’ve obtained as much as possible when I return to India after completing my master’s degree in London.

I could accomplish it more efficiently since the UK significantly impacts the Indian legal system.

With an international degree, I hope to expand the work started by my foundation, PATH, which will help me promote the human rights of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups and Farmers (PVTGs) in India.

Additionally, I would seek to establish more responsibility by using the legal and legislative system as a tool for social change by bringing the issue before the courts, commissions, and legislative bodies.