For the past two months, the Indian media has been trying its best to solve the mysterious death of late Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput and has yet again managed to engage its viewers with an issue they have no expertise on. Pictures of Rhea Chakraborty in the midst of reporters armed with mics and cameras, flouting all norms of social distancing, are going viral on social media. Nobody seems to be okay with this, not even the ones who have accepted her as the murderer of their favourite actor.
Memes about the issues are being widely shared on social media. This trivialises something grave and makes us question the ethics of Indian television media and its habit of mob justice.
However, this is not the first time the Indian media is desperate to solve a death mystery before any investigating authority. Anyone who followed the 2008 Arushi and Hemraj murder case in Noida can surely recollect how, for months, the Indian media continued to give the case every angle that it could, accusing anyone they felt could have murdered the duo. The anchors and their accusations ended up creating a mob mentality and a divide amongst its viewers against those they thought could be the killer.
But this is not to say that pre 2008, the media was doing any better. Television news outlets were busy searching for “Swarg ki Seedhi (Stairway to Heaven)” and finding out how much food WWE star Khali requires to maintain his physique. No doubt, the Arushi-Hemraj murder case provided them with something unique, and taking advantage of the great opportunity at hand, they continued to exploit the case and the people involved for months.
The same deceitful tactics are now being used in 2020. The media is using all its force to show its viewers the same news day in and out. The otherwise busy Indian media, which on other days warns gullible Indians against the “Dragon Threat” at the border and mocks Pakistan for its everyday problems, is ignoring the problems we have in our country, and has reached new heights of insensitivity while reporting on the Sushant Singh Rajput death case.
From leaking personal chats to giving it a political colour, this case has seen enough twists and turns.
The trail of developments, from the existing nepotism in the film industry and depression that caused Sushant’s death by suicide to it being a case of murder for money, and now, with the latest drug angle to it, is being constantly tracked and exaggerated by the Indian media so much so, that the changing narrative is making the case seem even more complicated.
The media, which ideally should have discussed mental health — a concern the majority of this country doesn’t take seriously anyway — has been feeding to the pre-existing misogyny in society, projecting Rhea as the only reason for Sushant’s death. But what the media has failed to take into account is that it is not just Rhea who is being questioned by the CBI. Sushant’s friends and family members have also been summoned for investigation.
The chances of Rhea being directly or indirectly involved cannot be ignored in this case, or the drug angle in which her brother Showik has already been arrested along with a few others. The case must be investigated, but this is the job of investigation authorities.
The sole aim of the media trial is to prove Rhea guilty, with or without evidence, with no one giving a hoot about a fair trial. No doubt, any news about Bollywood makes viewers interested, especially when there’s a controversy with so many layers to it. And this is what has led the media to, by all standards, harass Rhea, her family, and even the guards of her building.
The actress took to social media and shared a video on her Instagram that showed her father, Indrajit Chakraborty, surrounded by mediapersons. Amid this raging coronavirus pandemic, with record daily spikes every other day, how appropriate is it for reporters to harass Rhea’s father — an elder man who is more vulnerable to getting infected with the virus?
The scariest part of all this is how catastrophic the situation might become and how the media would save its face if any of the family members turn out to be positive for Covid-19 and infect other journalists.
But it would be wrong on our side to solely blame the on-ground reporters, and leave the editors who comfortably sit in their studios, ordering to fetch exclusive footage, disregarding all rules and SOPs, and airing it, setting a wrong example for a country that has crossed 42 lakh cases as you read this.