Day after day, hour after hour, the cacophony of vile, putrid allegations against Bollywood actress Rhea Chakraborty has been growing louder and louder. Her boyfriend, actor Sushant Singh Rajput, passed away about two and a half months ago and the nation’s media, social media, and millions of nameless, faceless trolls have taken it upon themselves to judge her guilty and throw every and any sexist trope and insult possible on this woman. I don’t know if she’s guilty of any crime and nor does anyone else, but everyone jumping into the discussion has become an expert in jurisprudence, crime investigation, police procedure and witness testimonies.
Most of these judgements are predicated on her sex. Like a pack of hyenas, we, as a society, have dug into every word, every thought, every gesture, every clothing, every hair strand of hers, gutted her life apart and hung her like a living carcass on the crucifix of misogyny and sexism. We have become blood thirsty vampires aiming for her jugular vein.
Madhu Kishwar, the co-founder of the feminist magazine Manushi, called her a fortune huntress, a mafia moll and a sex bait on Twitter. Shobha De, in a piece written for NDTV post some television interviews of Rhea’s, opined with derision in several quotation marks on her attire, her concern for her family, her well-rehearsed answers. Apparently, it is a presumption of guilt if one gives out facts, dates and figures in an interview. She has been called a witch, a gold digger and much worse on national television and, as is the norm of the day, a sizeable population has taken to social media to analyse and judge, in the crudest form possible, a girl who hasn’t been found guilty by any court of law.
There are several disturbing aspects to this saga being played out right now—media ethics and responsibilities, the infringement of privacy, the awareness of mental health issues, the politicisation of a tragedy and the treatment of women in this country.
It would be naïve to expect the media to stop making a circus of a young woman’s life but the coverage has transgressed into the ‘trial by media’ territory. The rabble-rousing din has driven people to participate in the abuse and propagate their own version of truth and justice. Hell, no one even wants to tolerate her being interviewed by anyone. They want her to be voiceless and deny her the right to put forward her story in an egregious dismantling of all sense of justice and fairness. The fact that justice is not justice until both sides have been heard is lost on the mob because they have been consuming and internalising every misogynist theory put out by the media.
Private conversations have been plastered and debated ad nauseum as entertainment. Like a swarm of locusts, media has descended upon her building even cornering a delivery boy into saying something, anything, for consumption. No one is even remotely concerned about trespassing, libel and slander in this case. The direction this tragedy would take was perhaps obvious from the first day itself when pictures of the deceased were being shown, forwarded and analysed, repeatedly.
When Sridevi passed away, there were stories and conjectures blaming her death on plastic surgeries, botox, cosmetic procedures, diets etc. Reporters got into bathtubs, graphics of the hotel room and the bathroom were shown on television, her drinking habits were discussed. There was that misogynist overtone to it all. To make Disha Salian’s (a former manager of Sushant) death even more salacious, some media agencies started reporting that she was raped and was pregnant at the time of her death. Because, what could be greater shame for a woman than the shame of the sanctum sanctorum of her body, her womb. It took her father to make a denial to put an end to the horrific, innuendo filled reporting.
In Rhea Chakraborty’s case, the sexist slander has destroyed any decency or logic one can only hope should exist in society. This is a society where people send rape threats believing it is to a woman’s shame to get raped. Incredulously, it doesn’t even cross their mind that calling yourself a wannabe rapist should bring shame because if they thought otherwise, they would never make such threats. Such is the male privilege which exists and such is the misogyny which exists.
There are three agencies probing Rhea right now—CBI, ED and NCB, but everyone has already convinced themselves that she is guilty. It is akin to a medieval cadence of wanting to burn the witch at the stake. The ‘as old as hill’ trope of a woman siphoning off a man’s money, controlling his mind through witchcraft and keeping him captive in his own house.
And to all the women who are guilty of participating in this misogyny, you never know if and when you will be next. It is the same society and it will not spare you either when it decides to come for you.
(The author is a former government servant)
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author’s
Day after day, hour after hour, the cacophony of vile, putrid allegations against Bollywood actress Rhea Chakraborty has been growing louder and louder. #RheaChakraborty #TheIndianSun #TheYarnhttps://t.co/lZuOJRYpVk
— The Indian Sun (@The_Indian_Sun) August 31, 2020