Years ago when I expressed my desire to be a photojournalist, I was advised against it. “Why,” I asked the senior journalist sitting opposite me at the interview… He inquired, “Would you be able to forget your manners and resort to barbarism?” The question shocked me back then, and in utter confusion, I replied, “No…”
Just a few years down the line I understood why he discouraged me, as I witnessed the barbarism, absolute ill-mannerism, and the arrogant display of power while attending press conferences, and taking news bytes. Of course not every photojournalist or videographer is horrible, I have come across some gentlemen who have stepped aside as soon as they realised they were making someone uncomfortable or allowed room for me to click photographs in the immense jostling crowd as well.
Recently, after months of chaos in the case related to Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death under unknown circumstances, Rhea Chakraborty was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau. Days ago when she was called for interrogation by the CBI, videos showing the way paps pouring over her reminded me of hungry hyenas pouncing on a deer to tear it apart and eat it alive. This is not the first time such treatment has been meted out to people. Paparazzi is known to cross the line often. But this time it seemed way over the line.
Mainstream and social media
A large section of the Indian media has tainted Rhea as a murderer, witch, gold digger etc, which led to thousands audaciously threatening to rape and murder her. Up until now, we had not seen any substantial charges against her other than the late actor’s family’s claims. Since Sushant’s death in June, social media has been abuzz with numerous groups shouting slogans of justice for the actor and hashtags like #justiceforSSR #justiceforsushant #ssrwarriors have been floating around all these platforms. Sushant’s death case now also has the Enforcement Directorate, looking into matters from the money laundering angle, and the CBI, other than the NCB.
The man who passed away months ago, never received this media attention when he was alive. Now that he’s gone, the media, gossip mongers, and an apparent nationwide fanbase have been cooking up theories and setting up media trials with their “investigation”. Not only does this project the lack of ethics in journalism, but also highlight the way this industry always looks for a scapegoat.
There seems to be no understanding of “innocent until proven guilty” today. First, there were thousands of “fans” badmouthing Karan Johar, YRF, Alia Bhatt, Mahesh Bhatt and several others and calling out nepotism in Bollywood. And then the focus shifted to the late SSR’s ex-girlfriend Rhea — this shift in focus shows just how fluid the mass can be. Not only was her character dragged through the mud, but people labelled her a witch (reminds me of witch hunts in Medieval Europe), memes flooded the Internet calling her names, journalists gathered around her home all day long, and outside the interrogation centres. As soon as news of the actor’s arrest broke people across the country expressed satisfaction and claimed how justice has been served, or how Rhea got what she deserved.
Whether she is at fault or not is for the central investigating agencies to find out, and not a sensational news-fed common mass’ verdict. One should have faith in the central agencies, and allow them to proceed with their investigation to find the truth, and not make series of assumptions, or defame people because they’re frustrated during a pandemic.
Facts on Rhea’s arrest
Rhea was “an active member of the drug syndicate connected with drug supplies” and knew of “every delivery and payment,” the Narcotics Control Bureau said in its court documents. She currently faces charges that could lead to up to 10 years in jail. So far, 10 people have been arrested in connection with the late actor’s death, including Rhea and her brother Showik Chakraborty.
With this arrest, the initial conclusion that SSR committed suicide due to depression got even stronger with NCB’s report which charged her for buying or arranging of drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput. If procuring or consuming ganja is a crime worth arresting then today Sushant would have also been arrested were he alive, and so should have been many hundreds of thousands of Indians.
Furthermore, NCB hasn’t charged Rhea for the consumption of ganja or buying it in a large portion to sell for economic gains. How does this prove Rhea, currently held in Byculla jail, led her ex-boyfriend to commit suicide? What are the self-claimed “warriors” rejoicing?
Following Rhea’s arrest, her lawyer Satish Maneshinde, a reputed celebrity criminal lawyer said, “Travesty of justice. 3 central agencies hounding a single woman just because she was in love with a drug addict who was suffering from mental health issues for several yrs & committed suicide due to consumption of illegally administered medicines, drug..”
Soon after Rhea’s arrest, SSR’s family lawyer Vikas Singh told the media, “Drug charges are not our case against Rhea.”
We still don’t know why and how Sushant died, but an entire family has been ripped apart, and Rhea’s career has been destroyed all thanks to media’s trial sessions.
During NCB interrogation, Rhea confessed to procuring drugs for her late boyfriend and also admitted to consuming them, claiming that whatever she did, she did it for SSR.
The NCB also said that they have evidence linking Showik Chakraborty and Samuel Miranda to the purchase of marijuana, and claims that Dipesh Sawant collected and delivered a total of 165 grams of marijuana between March and June – on orders from Rhea and Showik Chakraborty.
Rhea’s current bail petition argues that her arrest was “unwarranted and without any justification,” that her liberty was “arbitrarily curtailed” and that no female officer was present during her interrogation. She also said that she “had no access to any legal advice during her questioning when she was interrogated for a minimum of eight hours at a stretch by multiple male officers”.
Objectification of women
This is not the first time a celebrity has been a suspect in a criminal case. Earlier, Salman Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Suraj Pancholi and several others were also accused of serious crimes. But seldom have we seen shirtless photos of the men in stories related to crimes, whereas in case of Rhea, on the day of her arrest a well-known photojournalist shared the following image of her to announce the news on Instagram.
This is only a mere instance of how women are and always get objectified no matter what.
In July, when Bangladesh police arrested JKG Health Care Chairman Dr Sabrina Arif Chowdhury in a case filed over her alleged involvement in a Covid-19 testing scam, a similar thing happened. The media kept on sharing non-professional photos of the doctor and even took initiative at describing her outfit, and style during the ongoing period of investigation. Again, the men involved in the same case were not projected on front pages or talked about as much as Dr Sabrina. There are innumerable such instances across the globe — this is to say that the ongoing social media campaign of smashing patriarchy concerning Rhea’s T-shirt on the day of her arrest isn’t pseudo feminism.
As long as people stick with the belief that feminism is about giving women an extra mileage of benefits over men, the stark difference of treatment and opportunities between the two genders will always be denied and the reality overlooked. Women are not only objectified for their looks and appearance but also targetted more often than men for innumerable given causes and cases.