Actor Sushant Singh Rajput in a still from Shuddh Desi Romance | YouTube
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We don’t know why Sushant Singh Rajput decided to end his life. He didn’t leave a note. But from Kangana Ranaut to the average Sarla chachi to TV news channels, everyone thinks they know exactly what happened.

Kangana Ranaut & Co have swayed the debate from mental health to a Bollywood witch hunt. Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely demise was an opportunity for India, the suicide capital of the world, to talk mental health. But no, Indians are more interested in his partner Rhea Chakraborty, a CBI probe, Subramanian Swamy’s ‘expert analysis’, the driver, cook and bank account statements. Locked down Indians have finally got their dose of sensationalism, largely missing from their lives in the times of a pandemic. Six weeks since the actor’s death, the drama for those preying on its coverage, it seems, is yet to reach the climax.

On Saturday, the Bollywood actor’s therapist Susan Walker came out in defence of Rhea Chakraborty, saying “she didn’t kill him”. Walker said she was dismayed with media’s irresponsible coverage on mental health. She added that Sushant suffered from bipolar disorder and that Reha “gave him courage to seek help”.

If only we felt this pain at the death of every Indian who died by suicide. If only we probed the death of every engineering student in IITs, or those studying in Kota and the IAS coaching factories with the same vigour and national alarm. And if only we blamed patriarchy, academia, our education system, the increasing loneliness in our society, and depression due to exhausting work hours but inadequate wages, just as we are blaming Rhea Chakraborty, we might have taken a positive step towards saving many lives, including Sushant’s. The suicides of Rohith Vemula, farmers, CRPF personnel, and married Indian women call for equal outrage, if not more.


Also read: Delhi University has one obsession and it’s making a mess of it. Exams


The suicide capital of the world

As crude as it sounds, it’s true. India reports disproportionately high numbers of suicides, and more people decide to end their lives in our country than anywhere else.

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According to a 2018 Lancet report, India accounts for 36 per cent of the world’s female suicides, while being home to only 18 per cent of the global female population. We also report about a quarter of the global male suicides, every year. These victims are often very young; suicide is the leading cause of death for Indians in the age group of 15-39.


Also read: Suicides see a sharp rise in Kolkata amid lockdown, over half are 40 years or younger


Student suicides 

India loses one student to suicide every hour, every day. Many students kill themselves because they give in to the pressure to excel by our society and an education system that always prioritises marks over knowledge. Let’s see if the New Education Policy changes that.

Lockdown has been detrimental to students’ mental health. A 21-year-old undergraduate who lived in my neighbourhood jumped off the 22nd floor of a building right in front of my society. No suicide note was found. A few days before his death, he did step out of his house to meet his friends. In Kerala, about 66 school students died by suicide during the lockdown.

Kota in Rajasthan, known as the ‘coaching capital’ to parents, is actually a suicide hotspot. The stories of mental pressure and torture that I’ve heard from those who lived in the education hub are horrifying. Staying away from family when you are as young as 15, being slut-shamed if you return to your hostel or PG after sunset and developing eating disorders are just some of the experiences that can eat into your mental peace.

There’s pressure to excel, and the students double down that pressure on themselves because they are aware of the huge sums of money their parents invest in them to stay in that desolate environment and crack those overly-competitive exams.

In Kota, as was told to me by a friend who studied there while preparing for AIPMT (now NEET), students were categorised into strong and weak groups and put in study batches accordingly. Now you can decide how demeaning it must be for those in the ‘weak’ group.

If these students fail a paper, or even score less, they are made to feel they have spoiled all prospects of living a decent life. Generation after generation this is the message our society has given them: XIIth boards mein 95 per cent le aa beta phir aish he aish hai (score well in boards and you will find success later on).

The issue of student suicide has been explored in popular films like 3 Idiots and even Rajput’s Chhichhore. But young, discouraged, disheartened students ending their lives every hour, every day somewhere in India isn’t sensational enough for us to start Twitter hashtags or Change.org petitions. After all, you might not find a woman to blame here.


Also read: Mother of ‘murdered’ NLU Jodhpur student seeks CBI probe, SC issues notice


Caste-Based violence 

While making up 8.6 per cent of the total population, Scheduled Tribes in India accounted for about 10 per cent of total suicides among caste groups, according to this 2016 report in The Indian Express. This was followed by Dalits who accounted for 9.4 per cent of all suicides.

Societal discrimination can be blamed for suicide among oppressed groups. The visuals of two children crying while their parents consumed pesticide before the police in Guna in protest against an anti-encroachment drive is a recent example of the atrocities faced by oppressed groups that push them to end their lives.

In cases of Rohith Vermula and Payal Tadvi, a medical student in Mumbai, the victims did point out who and what made them take their lives. But this wasn’t enough to bring India together and demand justice for the two bright students who were killed by the systemic caste oppression that thrives in university campuses across India.

If the existence of nepotism doesn’t let you sleep at night and you want Bollywood to be purged of undeserving actors, you must understand how casteism works. It is the biggest reason why you see so many papa ki savarna daughters and mummy ke spoilt brats on the big screen in India.

Why would you think the centuries-old practice of ‘doing exactly what your father did for a living’ will leave the Hindi film industry unaffected? Casteism is the root cause of nepotism, not only in Bollywood but across sectors.

Brahmin-baniyas make cliques everywhere — from academia to medicine to civil services to the Army. They then bully the ‘outsider’, the Dalit, as was the case with Rohith and Payal. Why did it not bother us then?

Why were only a handful of people, who many of us brand as ‘pseudo liberals’ or ‘urban-Naxals’, were demanding justice for Rohith and raising the issue of violent casteism seeped in Indian universities?

Imagine if our collective conscience had woken up much earlier to address the mental health pandemic in our country, primarily because of the centuries-old systemic oppression and increasingly because of capitalism, where the ‘work is life’ mantra is shoved down our throats.

Where we not so focussed on Rhea Chakraborty’s bank account, arm-chair activism and Twitter monologues could have brought about real policy intervention.

Blaming his partner, bullying Karan Johar or watching Kangana Ranaut interviews won’t bring Sushant justice. What can really help is preventing other Sushants from tightening the noose around their neck. And that will only happen if we push for better mental health policies. Nothing less would do.

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19 Comments Share Your Views

19 COMMENTS

  1. Ignorant piece of writing. Comparing deaths is actually very disgusting and lame. yes, students are dying, caste-based and gender violence is an epidemic, but that does not mean one has to ignore Sushant’s case or not grieve. This is typical virtue signaling and false association. Do better.

  2. What a horrible article, never heard of this ‘print’ news media and even this is bought?? SHUBHANGI MISRA, you are not competent enough to do your job and you question when other ‘real’ journalists come up with leads? and how dare you add ‘If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism’ shame on you no one will support you!!

  3. Idiot piece of news! At least this is a step in the right direction, where everyone now has the time and energy to fight for what is right. Baby steps are important!

  4. Are you an idiot? This is murder by high profile people. Why Aditya Thackeray is not coming out and saying that he was not present in both parties. Let’s run their cell phone number location to see where were these fellows. Sooraj Pancholi, Arbaz Khan, Aditya Thackeray, Siddhartha Pithani, Showik etc.
    Your piece is not addressing the crime but talking about other facets of suicidal issues that our society faces.
    Don’t mix the two issues. I am sure that you got some money to detract the thinking of Indian public.

  5. बोल जमूरे क्या बात है ??
    गुरु सोच रहा हूँ हालांकि कोरोना चल रहा है, लेकिन जिस तरह से बिहार के एक आईपीएस अधिकारी को मुंबई में क्वारंटाइन किया गया है वह संदिग्ध लग रहा है !!
    और गुरु यह भी आश्चर्य की बात है कि बिहार सरकार ने भी सीबीआई जांच के लिए या तथा कतिथ मुंबई पुलिस द्वारा किये जा रहे असहयोग के विरुद्ध अभी तक अदालत का दरवाजा नहीं खटखटाया है ?? मीडिया मामले को उछाल रहा है और इसका फायदा किसको हो रहा है ? ऐसा लग रहा है कि आने वाले बिहार चुनाव तक शतरंज का खेल चलता रहेगा ?
    जमूरे नहीं समझा, सब कुछ पाल-टिक्स है !!

  6. According to the print,everything has to be about caste and patriarchy and misogyny and always the girl is the poor victim..but whatever.. democracy me sahna padta hai.. i read these leftist news outlets to get their perspective..nothing else

  7. Student death is very bad as our education system has started to evolve that issue might also get resolved. Why there is a comparison between SSR death and student death. Are out out of your mind. When a death case can have so many suspicion can expose Bollywood mafia or can expose some politician on some big case you ended up comparing two completely different issue. I dont expect any thing else. you could have given the attention on everyone changing their statements but know you want to save someone., such a shame.

  8. Print has again come out in the support of the rotten people of this country. Although the case is under investigation, but print have decided to declare it as suicide.Because this sold rotten journalist think that people will believe whatever she writes. Shame on you

    Bika huya media

  9. So do you want us to stop talking about Sushant or what? Sorry, we won’t. Just when the time is right to expose the corrupt bigwigs of Bollywood, well-informed portals like you are diluting the entire situation. And the article is so disrespectful to the departed soul. You undermine his death. You insult the fans who are raising their voice? You could have just said that suicides are happening in other places too instead of dragging us here. Justice for Sushant. Boycott Bollywood.

  10. Howndare u be inreaponsible in your journalisim u claim its suicde but the report the police have given is intermetinet u should say possible no sucide note left this is inprper and unprofessional journalisim have reported you to the head of india press council and i work in a international press office. Sickening.

  11. Excellent analysis, very few had shown the courage to call spade for spade. Some bollywood actors have no work for last four months, so SSR suicide has come handy to get media attention.

  12. Answer to your Why – question, plain and simple, it may have not been a suicide to begin with. Remember the term foul play??
    I agree with you that so many people commit suicide and nobody is bothered about them. But think positive, with SSRs example, the common man will realize not to move on but demand justice !! That’s why all this uproar And protest on media is actually good. Infact its happening during pandemic has given people time to stop and think About the malpractices that happen on daily basis be it in medical field or police dept , forensics (oh sorry this department probably does not even exist in India) and of course politics !!
    Oh yes, of course you’ve been paid by Mumbai police and or other high profile involved people, so shut the….

  13. Answer to your Why – question, plain and simple, it may have not been a suicide to begin with. Remember the term foul play??
    I agree with you that so many people commit suicide and nobody is bothered about them. But think positive, with SSRs example, the common man will realize not to move on but demand justice !! That’s why all this uproar And protest on media is actually good. Infact its happening during pandemic has given people time to stop and think About the malpractices that happen on daily basis be it in medical field or police dept , forensics (oh sorry this department probably does not even exist in India) and of course politics !!
    Oh yes, of course you’ve been paid by Mumbai police and or other high profile involved people, so shut the….

  14. The SSR’s investigation will open up pandora’s box not only about the film industry but also the nexus between the Film Industry-Politician to some extent police nexus. The proper investigation may give rise to set up transparency and regulatory guidelines. What Shekhar has said in his clutter video is a cent percent fact. Especially about so-called media covering the film/entertainment field. As they associated me with the Jury related work though I was with the Corporate background, I keenly watched & had personal expereience
    So do not bring in new issues and disturb the focus. Those or different issues especially the Jaipur education lobby which claim that these suicides are due to parental pressure more than the academic reason. Thanks

  15. There are worthwhile questions aimed at here , but no answers .Life is a rat race , yes , people go to kota to get ahead , yes , some fail , yes and some find not worth living after failure , yes .Then what ? what is the solution ?

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