Priya Ranjan Sahu
At last, Rhea Chakraborty, Sushant Singh Rajput’s girlfriend, was arrested on Tuesday. It does not matter if she was arrested by Narcotics Control Bureau or CBI. It’s more than enough that she has been arrested.
Since Rajput died under mysterious circumstances on June 14, a section of television channels have been running a campaign against his 28-year-old girlfriend accusing her of ‘murdering’ him. It also helps that the family of the deceased actor is against her.
Before zeroing in on Chakraborty, the media also ran campaign (now they don’t report) against nepotism in Mumbai film industry and cited it as the cause of the actor’s death. The whirlwind campaigns by the channels ably supported by organised social media ensured that multiple central probing agencies including CBI, Enforcement Directorate and NCB took over different aspects of investigation.
However, even after the agencies took over the case as demanded by them, its wide coverage continued on the channels, getting murkier, farcical and more grotesque by the day. Chakraborty was pronounced guilty in media trials day after day. Frenzied paparazzi chased and mobbed her wherever she went.
Of late, another section of TV channels gave platform to Chakraborty to explain her position. So it became ‘justice for Sushant’ as well as ‘justice for Rhea’. Either way, it kept the channels busy and their viewership soaring.
The relentless 24×7 coverage of Sushant-Rhea case, however, has done gross injustice to the people of India. In the meantime, more than 42 lakh Indians have been infected with novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) and 72,775 people have lost their lives to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19); the daily addition of infections has reached over 90,000 and deaths 1,000.
Around two crore salaried people have lost jobs since April, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. In the April-July financial quarter, India has shown a negative growth of 23.9%, the worst among world’s 20 top economies.
There are reports from across the country that the situation in government hospitals is pathetic and patients are dying like flies and are turning into statistics.
There are also reports that massive job loss continues across businesses, industries, infrastructure and farms, and experts fear starvation looms over millions of people. Why most channels never debate all these on prime time in the last few months?
The answer to this is another question: Who funds all these channels and where they get their revenues from?
Most of these channels are owned by India’s wealthiest people who have stakes in every business, be it mining, power, retail, infrastructure or mobile phones. Their revenue comes mostly from the government and corporate sector. The job of the channels is not to cover real news but to cover it up. So the plight of people due to COVID-19, massive unemployment and ruined economy are covered up by creating hype around potboilers like Sushant-Rhea episode.
In the meantime, powerful people ruling us get away with leasing out of airports to a single private company, auction of coal mines, and approval for cutting of lakhs of trees endangering livelihoods and ecology, without any question asked.
The real game of such TV channels (I don’t like to call them news channels because they are not) is to produce contents that feel like serials or reality shows, which work like a deflection from real issues. But they are not to be blamed alone. The viewers watch them in large number and deliver instant justice when someone is being targeted, especially a woman. In a male dominated society, many get sadistic pleasure when a woman gets shabbily treated and humiliated in front of the camera. They are hypnotised by corporate hypnotism.
It is now open secret that the frenzy around Sushant-Rhea was created keeping two things in mind – putting the Maharashtra government in embarrassing position and reaping political harvest in the forthcoming Bihar elections. Already, thousands of “Sushant Singh Rajput Bihar’s pride” posters have been circulated in Bihar.
The matter is not going to end after Chakraborty’s arrest. Now the focus of the channels may be to cover 24×7 on the cell (with number) allotted to her, the food she was served, if she ate or starved, if she cried or laughed! It may continue at least till Bihar elections are over or the Maharashtra government collapses.
Do the people of India really want to know about all these, especially when their own livelihoods and existence are at stake? We have to wait for some time for an answer.
The writer is a senior journalist based in Bhubaneswar.