Just two months after Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead in his Mumbai apartment, his actress girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty found herself at the center of a vicious hate campaign by some of the journalists and trolls of the India’s most prominent social media.
Rajput was a rising star in the popular Hindi film industry in India, and his death shocked India. Her body was discovered in her bedroom on June 14. Mumbai Police said the 34-year-old appeared to have committed suicide, and press reports suggested the actor had mental health issues.
But within days, the attention generated by his death had shifted to Chakraborty. She has become the subject of misogynistic gossip, innuendo and abuse. Every little detail of her life and relationship has been laid bare and debated in public.
fortune huntress ”, a“ moll mafia ”and a“ sex bait to trap rich men ”.
Last month, Chakraborty posted on Instagram a screenshot of a post from someone claiming to be a fan of Rajput, threatening her with rape and murder and urging her to “kill herself or I will send people to you. kill ”.
Underneath the message, she wrote: “I was called a gold digger, I stayed silent. I was called a murderer, I remained silent. I was ashamed, I remained silent. She pleaded for police help with cybercrime.
Trolling got meaner after Rajput’s father filed a complaint against the police on July 25, accusing Chakraborty of inciting suicide. He alleged that Chakraborty stole his son’s money, overdosed on medication, threatened to publicize his mental health issues and took him away from his family. He also denied that his son had mental health issues.
On Thursday, his allegations that Chakraborty “poisoned his son” and “murdered him” were making headlines in India. Chakraborty has denied any wrongdoing or involvement.
Although there is no evidence that Chakraborty committed a crime and that Rajput’s death is still under investigation, much of the press has already found the actress guilty, Meenakshi Arora said. , Supreme Court lawyer.
“She was hanged, pulled and quartered,” Ms Arora said, alluding to a macabre form of punishment inflicted in medieval Britain for high treason.
“It’s a full trial by the media. It is the job of the investigation and the courts, it is not the job of the media to judge it. Legally, this is so wrong, ”she said.
Payal Chawla, a lawyer, said: “The report is terribly disturbing. This beating, this voyeurism, this attempt to satisfy the public’s desire for gossip is extremely problematic.
“It also shows how easy it is to dry women off at every opportunity. The question is not whether she is guilty or not, what I find problematic is this kind of trial, popular justice, the vigilantes who call for her arrest. . ”
For her part, Chakraborty appealed to Home Secretary Amit Shah for a fair investigation into Rajput’s death, she approached the Supreme Court about the “unfair media trial” and issued her own statement denying all claims. charges against her.
According to reports, Chakraborty and Rajput started dating in the summer of last year and moved in together in December. On June 8, a week before Rajput died, Chakraborty went to live with his parents and was not at home when the actor committed suicide.
A month after her death, she wrote about her grief in an Instagram post.
“I still have a hard time dealing with my emotions… an irreparable numbness in my heart… I will no longer come to terms with the fact that you were no longer there,” she wrote.
Her friends told Huffpost that she is deeply in love, that she puts her health and happiness above her career, and feels her pain as hers.
The misogyny directed against Chakraborty also led Susan Walker, Rajput’s therapist, to issue a press release.
She told journalist Barkha Dutt that Chakraborty had been Rajput’s “strongest supporter” and said the actor “depended on her as a mother figure”.
His statement led many to wonder if Walker had breached the doctor’s confidentiality. He also highlighted the flaws in India’s media coverage of sensitive issues such as suicide.
“The tragedy of the actor’s death is horrific, but look at what we’ve done on the mental health issue,” Ms. Chawla said.
“It is incorrect to assume that a high achiever cannot have mental health issues. There are so many examples, like John Nash and Robin Williams, who were high performing individuals and had mental health issues. “
Nash, a gifted American mathematician, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Williams, an American comedian and actor, committed suicide in 2014.
But in the case of Rajput’s death, the nuance has been lost in much of the Indian media coverage, which has relied on unsubstantiated speculation and leaks to portray Chakraborty as a villain. Her relationship and finances have been under investigation for weeks, and on Wednesday India’s Narcotics Control Bureau opened its own investigation after media claimed the actress was using drugs.
“She’s accused, but in a way she’s now become a victim,” Ms. Arora said. “We don’t know if she’s guilty or not, but the media lawsuit is seriously jeopardizing her chances. It will also put extreme pressure on the judge who is to try this case. “
The coverage had been “reckless”, she said, and “geared towards sensationalism to gain audiences.”
This is not the first time that the Indian press has fled with a high-profile case, muddying the waters with its own investigations. The sluggishness of India’s judicial system and the country’s weak defamation laws can act as a deterrent to those wronged by the press, discouraging them from seeking damages, Ms. Arora said. She called on the court system to issue a gag order in Chakraborty’s case.
“It is an obstruction to criminal justice,” she said, “and the press must be asked to refrain from any media trial.”
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