What is unfathomable is the way the case has morphed, from an investigation reviewing the death by suicide of Chakraborty’s boyfriend Sushant Singh Rajput into a drug-related case. The crass sensationalism, led by a section of the electronic media and the breathless minute-by-minute coverage, is condemnable, but these are not the central issues. While the media must stop playing prosecutor and judge, it is important to point out where the real problem lies – with India’s law enforcement agencies and criminal justice system.
To the unprejudiced mind, a couple of things appear clear in the manner that events have unfolded. First, the CBI, which was tasked with determining whether Rajput was murdered or pushed into taking his own life, made no headway despite its concentrated efforts to unearth any evidence to support these conspiracy theories. Second, the manner in which investigation agencies have been roped into this case points unerringly towards political involvement in the case. It is not clear how high up this is coming from. And it is not certain why. The impending Bihar election, where the Rajput issue has already become a talking point? The desire to show up the Shiv Sena and its police? The intent of sending out a message to Bollywood that it better toe the line?
Even though since then, there are many versions of the quantity and nature of the drugs consumed by the actor and how it was procured for him, some accounts talk of use of CBD, which is a 40 per cent extract from the cannabis plant and it is legal in many parts of the world. Widely used in India, its administration is supported by a wealth of medical literature. It bears no resemblance to narcotic substances such as opium and heroin, and to club all these together under the label ‘drug’ is to misunderstand their varying natures and to obfuscate the reasons why they are used. It would be worthwhile for our law enforcers to recognise that cannabis or marijuana is legal in many countries. Also, that there is a private members bill for the legalisation of marijuana that has been tabled in Parliament.
Against this background, the coordinated action against Chakraborty bears the appearance of a tragic witch hunt. This week, scores of celebrities from Bollywood came together to place on record through an open letter, their disappointment with regard to the manner in which the Indian media had prosecuted Chakraborty and hounded her without any concern for human decency or privacy. Leading film personalities joined as many as 2,500 petitioners who said that rather than viewing the Rajput case as an opportunity to set into motion a discourse on mental health and increase awareness regarding it, the media went on to pillory a young actress, with a one-sided narrative, convinced that Chakraborty was responsible for Rajput’s fate. The letter went on to urge the media to “hunt for news, and not for women”, as was needlessly being done during the course of the investigations.
The incident has emerged as yet another reminder of the need to insulate our investigating agencies against political interference. Rather than focus on cases that matter, it is appalling that they have been chasing a ‘murder’ that looks like it never happened and a ‘drugs’ case that, given the rampant misuse of dangerous narcotic substances in the country, is of monumental insignificance.