Actor Sushant Singh Rajput committed suicide on June 14 at his Mumbai residence. After months of a war of words between the Maharashtra and Bihar Police, a large numbers of dedicated prime time TV shows, millions of attacks and counter-attacks on Twitter and prolonged political rivalry between NDA and Shiv Sena, Rhea Chakraborty has been arrested and sent behind bars in a drugs case.
While transferring the actresses’s case to CBI, Justice Hrishikesh Roy said, “The truth meets sunshine, justice will not prevail on the living alone but after life’s fitful fever, now the departed will also sleep well. Satyameva Jayate.”
The above sentence by SC judge really brings about a new hope for justice in this particular case but my inner churning compels me to ask whether justice shall only remain the prerogative of the rich and famous, the powerful and the influential such as Sushant Singh Rajput or should justice be accessible and guaranteed to people across social, political and economic spectrums of the society? Will the country’s media be as interested in making sure that a non-famous, non-celebrity and non-influential person has access to justice when he/she is violated, will political parties passionately take on each other with such intensity, will the CBI and the police work day and night as if it were a determinant of their capabilities and sanctity, will it become an election agenda as it has now become?
The Politicisation of the Sushant Singh Rajput Case
The Sushant Singh Rajput case has become a national issue. It is now bigger than the preliminary debates on nepotism and favoritism in the film industry, it has occupied centre stage in political debates and become the bone of contention between the Shiv Sena and the BJP. Moreover, the ruling party has taken a renewed interest in the case because it is being seen as a key agenda that could fetch votes for the NDA in the upcoming Bihar elections. The issue has been imposed upon the sentiments of Bihari people. It is a bridge to win over the Bihari voter who is deeply anguished by the death of Sushant Singh Rajput as the son of the soil. Delivering justice to Sushant’s family has become synonymous to delivering justice to the average Bihari voter, who doesn’t care if he has to go to bed on an empty stomach or die in the absence of adequate medical facilities as long as the politics of rhetoric can continue to fool him. It is an irony that a large section of Bihari voters have prioritised this case over the strengthening of the medical infrastructure in the state in the face of the ongoing pandemic, the guarantee of employment to thousands of migrants who returned during the nationwide lockdown or the demand for repairing a dilapidated education sector or boosting economic development in what is regarded as one of the most backward states in the nation. No wonder, with new WhatsApp messages and viral videos, political commentaries and sensational newsroom discussions – we are not allowed to forget the case for a moment and interwoven to its details like a spider caught in its own web. The pressing issues of our times such as the migrant crisis, the crumbling medical infrastructure, a dilapidated education system or a multiplying unemployment rate are seldom our concerns or expectations. The voice of the ordinary Indian citizen is lost in the cacophony of rhetorics and political strategies that leave us incapable of demanding our rights. Perhaps that is why the starvation deaths of migrant children, the thousand kilometers long journey of a teenage girl on a bicycle carrying her ailing father, and the massive loss of life and property during the recent floods in eastern India have never made us excited enough to ask for justice. Getting adequate medical attention when sick, employment and timely wages, right to food and education along with access to dignified housing are our rights that have been denied to a large section of the population for generations, but we have never come together to ask for them or to demand justice. These are our pressing concerns and no political regime has taken them up beyond the game of pre-election sensationalism or the cacophony of noisy prime time debates that are targeted only towards maximising channel TRPs.
The Marginalisation of People’s Issues in Mainstream Political Debate
If the death of Sushant Singh Rajput can be linked to the sentiments of the masses and all components of the state machinery can begin to function efficiently to ensure that justice is delivered at the earliest, why do we fail to see the same enthusiasm in eradicating malnutrition, illiteracy and entrenched poverty in the country?
The tussle between the NDA and the Shiv Sena, a suddenly reactivated judicial machinery that promises the most urgent delivery of justice and a sustained media campaign may be designed in favour of the ruling establishment ahead of the assembly elections in Bihar, but the question that we really ought to ask is why the more pressing issues of hunger, illiteracy, crime against women, unemployment and violence against the Dalits and minorities never catch the attention of the political class and why they never become popular election agendas. If justice is not just the prerogative of the mighty and powerful then why don’t the issues of the common citizen successfully shape the political debate in the country?
(Cover Image Source – Republic TV, Aaj Tak and The Week)