Elusive justice: The media trial of Rhea Chakraborty
Sir — It is a sad truth that bad news grabs more eyeballs than good news. But rarely has a tragic event attracted so much attention as the death of the actor, Sushant Singh Rajput. The case is being accorded a disproportionate amount of media attention. While the whole world is preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic and the response to it, Indian news channels, with a few honourable exceptions, are obsessed with excavating and expatiating on the circumstances surrounding the actor’s death. They have reduced the pandemic to a footnote. The entertainment this case seems to be providing, one is forced to conclude, is almost making up for cinema closures.
Fervid television anchors are spinning the viewers a yarn to suit their needs. They have taken it upon themselves to conduct a trial and pronounce guilt. Devoid of humanity and gladiatorial, they are baying for blood. The case is spiced up with new twists each day for the TV-watching public to devour with relish. At first it was alleged nepotism in Bollywood that was linked to Rajput’s death. Then it was brought to light that there was no love lost between the actor’s girlfriend, Rhea Chakraborty, and his family. When it could not be substantiated that Chakraborty had siphoned off crores of rupees from Rajput, the plot shifted to drug peddling and use. The story has transitioned from nepotism to narcotics.
As if this was not bad enough, things get worse from here. All kinds of information extracted during official interrogations reach select media outlets as ‘inside scoops’. This speaks poorly both of investigative agencies and media houses. This matter should now be put to rest, at least by the media.
G. David Milton,
Maruthancode, Tamil Nadu
Sir — Women, it seems, will be blamed for everything — from the original sin to the suicide of an actor. The persistent hounding and persecution of Rhea Chakraborty by the media and the public is sad and shameful. All this because society refuses to acknowledge mental illness and the debilitating effect it can have on a person suffering from it. Whether or not Sushant Singh Rajput and Chakraborty smoked cannabis — why must the woman be blamed for what an adult man chooses to do? — is not relevant to this case; the fact is that it could not have pushed the actor to take his life.
Even while the country obsesses over the suicide of Rajput, data released by the National Crime Records Bureau show that a total of 1,39,123 suicides were reported in India in 2019 — an increase of 3.4 per cent in comparison to 2018. Of these at least 2,851 persons killed themselves owing to unemployment. One can assume that given the pandemic-induced lull in the film industry and the impact that the recession will have on the purse-strings of producers, Rajput — less established than big stars who may have nest eggs to fall back on — could not but have been distressed. Have prime-time news divas considered this possibility before incriminating a girl without any solid evidence?
Sir — The endless speculations about and character assassination of Rhea Chakraborty by a large section of the media even before she has been pronounced guilty by the court are problematic on various counts. The leaked chats between the actress and various other people being flashed on news channels are a violation of the right to privacy. It is also shameful that the entire episode has been hijacked by politicians in an effort to eclipse the failures in governance before the Bihar elections. The aforementioned circumstances call for a court-monitored, independent and time-bound investigation into the whole incident to ascertain the truth. In the meantime, the media must stop playing the role of the jury-cum-investigative agency and shift its focus to more vital issues affecting the country.
Chandan Kumar Nath,
Sir — When we should be addressing the mental health crisis in India and interrogating the power structures of Bollywood, we are faced instead with medieval misogyny and cultural chauvinism. Rhea Chakraborty has received rape threats, been accused of murder and called a ‘Bengali witch’ because her boyfriend committed suicide.
What we are witnessing is the most predictable reaction of a deeply dysfunctional, patriarchal society — blaming the woman. It has happened before with Anushka Sharma who is abused every time her cricketer husband has a bad day on the pitch and Sania Mirza who has been trolled on numerous occasions for the successes and failures of her husband who hails from Pakistan. Kangaroo courts and mob verdicts have become par for the course in India.
Sir — It was exciting to see the picture of the blue whale that was spotted off the coast of Sydney for possibly only the third time in almost 100 years. They are not often seen because they tend to live very far out into the ocean, their populations are widely dispersed and there is limited data on their migration and critical habitats. The blue whale belongs to the category of “charismatic megafauna” — a rather unattractive way of describing those animals which capture the public imagination and help drive environmental and biodiversity campaigns. But this often means that the fate of creatures with less obvious appeal is overlooked.