Twitter vigilantes, justice for Sushant does not mean injustice to others

The Sherlock Holmes of Indian social media have refused to accept the evidence that points to the actor's death by suicide, and instead mobilised a lynch mob looking to hang someone for his death, arguing it was planned murder

On the morning of June 14, Sushant Singh Rajput was found dead at his Mumbai residence. Illustration: Immaya Bharathi

In the morally deranged world of social media vigilantes, justice for Sushant Singh Rajput has acquired a dangerous connotation: it now means injustice for someone, anyone, as long as their blood-lust is quenched.

A dangerous soap-opera is playing out in public since the actor’s death. The script of this farce is something like this: imagine a crime, seek justice, ignore facts, manufacture canards, hang someone, anyone.

On the morning of June 14, Rajput was found dead at his Mumbai residence. After detailed investigations, the police concluded that Singh committed suicide by hanging. These are, so far, irrefutable facts.

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But, the Sherlock Holmes of Indian social media have simply refused to accept the overwhelming evidence that points to death by suicide, and instead mobilised a lynch mob looking to hang someone for his death, arguing it was planned murder.

This dystopian drama would have been a dark comedy in the Alfred Hitchcock mould with Singh’s suicide being nothing more than a Macguffin, like in that under-rated film called The Trouble With Harry. But, it has now turned into a crime being perpetrated by the social media mafia to ruthlessly ruin the lives and reputations of several people, without an iota of evidence.

In a criminal justice system, unless three basic questions are answered, a case is not even considered worthy of a trial. One of them is whether the alleged incident—in this case a murder— actually happened? If the answer, in archaic Indian legalese dominated by Persian, is adam vaku (the incident didn’t happen), the case is immediately thrown out as a lie. Similarly, if there is no reliable witness or evidence—adam gawah—the case is closed.

In Sushant’s case, the allegation of a murder is adam vaku, a baseless lie born and propagated in the minds of social media vigilantes. There is overwhelming forensic and legal evidence to show the actor hanged himself. The Mumbai police have concluded that the actor died of suffocation and asphyxiation, and his viscera report rules out scope for any kind of foul play. In short, Sushant committed suicide.

Nobody knows why Sushant hanged himself. But, it is clear the actor did not want to blame anyone for his decision: he did not leave a suicide note or any clues on Twitter, where he was fairly active. So far, nobody has come forward to say Sushant was being harassed, blackmailed or pushed to the brink by someone.

The argument that Sushant could not have committed suicide is ridiculous. There is a long list of successful, young people apparently normal and happy in public perception who decided to end their lives. Marilyn Monroe did it years ago, Robin Williams killed himself sometime back, and both cases were met with typical consternation and disbelief. The truth is, anybody can decide life is no longer worth living. Sometimes the impulse is momentary, sometimes it continues to burn inside with increasing ferocity. And the unlucky ones succumb to it.

People can kill themselves for many reasons—failure, rejection, fear of shame and punishment, betrayal, inability to deal with pain, ailments and diseases, or simply because they are done with life, it no longer interests them.

In Sonchiriya, a confused Rajput, who plays a dacoit on the run, asks his boss Manoj Bajpai: “Dadda, what is the dharma of a baaghi (rebel)?” Perhaps, he was equally confused about his dharma and karma. But, since he did not discuss this in public, refused to explain his suicide, we can only resort to conjecture.

Maybe he was betrayed in love. But who isn’t? Perhaps there was a Bollywood gang working to keep him out of the big league. But competition, rivalry and envy are every person’s lifelong foes. The world around us is cruel, insensitive, selfish and is based on the idea of ‘a dog has to eat dog to survive’. To survive in it, everyone has to just plough ahead, even if everyone else is there to pull us back. For reasons best known to him, Sushant wanted out not just from this race but the very challenge of existence. Perhaps, clinical depression turned everything around him dark and he saw light only in death.

The vigilantes seeking justice for Sushant have done grave injustice to him with their toxic campaign in the name of justice for him. It would have been fine if their demand were based on cogent arguments, actionable evidence or reliable witnesses. But, by mounting a case on the basis of fabrications, conjectures, Kangana Ranaut’s tweets, and Subramanian Swami’s archetypical theories (wait for the Russian mafia angle now) that inevitably follow every high-profile death, they have ended up denying the actor what he wanted —a peaceful closure to his life.

The brutality of this campaign is manifest in the organised attack on the actor’s ex-girlfriend, actor Rhea Chakraborty, the new scapegoat after a vitriolic campaign against at least a dozen other Bollywood A-listers. Over the past few days, Chakraborty, like the Bhatts, the Jauhars, the Khans, the Bhansalis etc, has been tried, announced culpable and sentenced for Singh’s ‘murder’ by a lynch mob that has no regard for the founding principle of a justice system—innocent till proven guilty. She has been accused of siphoning funds to shell companies without any evidence; of withdrawing Rs 15-crore from the actor’s account when Sushant’s chartered accountant has denied on record his client did not have that kind of money since his income had dropped.

A TV channels ‘revealed’ Sushant spent money on Rhea, and possibly also on his family. What’s the big deal? Petty TRP-chasers may not understand two people in a consensual relationship share much more than money. But, that’s the beauty of love till it lasts. If Sushant spent money on his girlfriend, on travelling with her, on her family, it most likely shows he was liberal with both his emotions and money. And, as the CA says, he lived as “per her wish,” like many loving, caring, indulgent people do.

Another one dug up Chakraborty’s video. In this clip, she is making some inane remarks at a jovial gathering to insinuate she is the female equivalent of Mumbai’s bhai—a tai—out there to straighten toughies, including her own boyfriend. No context, no date, no explanation, just conjecture. It’s as silly as taking a clip from Shahrukh Khan’s Baazigar, putting it in the middle of DDLJ to argue the guy is a serial killer.

Outrageous conspiracy theories have been peddled on Twitter, making Sushant look like a gullible man whose money could be stolen, credit cards cloned, bank accounts emptied out by a real-life version of a Kamini-like figure from the film Karz. In some retellings of this ugly canard, he has been portrayed as a Jeetendra-like figure from the film Jyoti, a man controlled by conniving relatives through sedatives and drugs.

For god’s sake, read Sushant’s CV. He was a brilliant man with a high IQ, even if his emotional quotient may have somehow been disturbed recently. In the known history of Indian cinema, not many with Sushant’s credentials and CV—engineering student, Stanford scholarship winner, physics Olympiad medallist, great dancer, successful actor—have made it big without a godfather.

The truth is Sushant’s death is being used by the usual tragedy vampires. Out-of-work singers and actors are using it to get back at rivals; publicity-hungry stars addicted to vengeance, controversies, and media attention are reeling out unverifiable details of the actor’s life without ever having spent a single minute with the actor; and Bihari politicians are raising a storm back home in a bid to attract some Rajput voters—do not be surprised if one of his family members is pulled into politics soon—in the next elections.

We will never know why Sushant died. But we are all witnessing the murder of several reputations, including that of the late actor, by a crazed and rampaging mob that’s answerable to nobody.

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