The controversy over Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death by suicide is just refusing to die — from BJP leader Subramanian Swamy’s conspiracy theories, calls for CBI probe to Rajput’s father blaming his former girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty.
But never did I expect that the tragic incident would be used to target Bengali women.
Earlier this week, Rajput’s family lodged an FIR against Chakrabarty under various sections of the IPC, including abetment to suicide. Soon, people on social media began to accuse Chakraborty of performing ‘black magic’ on the actor, saying it may have driven Sushant to his death.
While Chakraborty has refused to comment since the matter is now sub-judice, Twitter has been flooded with stereotypical posts against Bengali women — because Rhea Chakraborty is a Bengali.
Trolls have labelled Bengali women as “gold-diggers”, “manipulative”, “dominating”, “bish kanya” (poisonous daughter), who “use their husbands for ATM”, who know “how to call ghosts” and “ruin” men’s careers.
STAY SAFE MEN / BOYS .
Bengali girls are dominating, they know how to make guys fall for them.
They catch big fish, good looking highly paid guys. If you want to be her servant and financer and are okay to leave your family and join her family then go ahead😊😊#RheaChakroborty
— Barkha Trehan / बरखा त्रेहन (@barkhatrehan16) July 31, 2020
Such vicious name-calling and blatant misogyny, however, don’t surprise me at all, given that demonising women is Indian patriarchy’s favourite pastime on social media.
I have grown up in West Bengal, but I have never heard about the sexist stereotype of Bengali women practising black magic or sorcery. It was only when I shifted to Delhi that I first heard of this ridiculous claim. Some people have even asked me if it’s true that Bengali women possess mystical powers. Some of my male friends, who have Bengali girlfriends, even talk about how Bengali women are so “hypnotising” with their “big, beautiful and magical” eyes.
Initially, I found the stereotype too brainless to be worth a reply.
One of my friends even quipped that men who label Bengali women as “gold-diggers” must have been jilted by them.
But as a Bengali woman, I’d like to set the record straight. We don’t know ‘black magic’, we don’t have ‘supernatural powers’. If we knew ‘jadu tona’, we would be ruling the world right now.
But now I really do wish I knew some ‘kala jadu’. It would have come handy in wiping out the misogyny and toxic masculinity we are constantly subjected to.
As for the trolls calling us ‘manipulative’, I understand that it’s not easy to handle fiercely independent, strong, bold, and opinionated women — this awesomeness is too much to bear, I know. But if refusing to cower before men makes us ‘dominating’, so be it.
Trolls say we love “catching big fish”, and they are right. We love to catch fish so that we can deep fry it in mustard oil and gobble it up with ghee-bhaat (rice).
Bengali women are also viewed as “chalu” (clever), “sexually available”, and “difficult” .
This stigma against Bengali women hasn't been created now. It exists for very long. Bengali women are called "difficult", "hypnotisers", "sexually available", "profane & promiscuous", the ones "breaking families" up North especially. Now, it has got ultimate platform on TV.
— Ahona Sengupta (@ahona_sengupta) July 31, 2020
Thread: Wrt the bigoted Bengali-women bashing that is happening here because of #RheaChakroborty and those after her life, here's a little something.
Honestly, in my lived experience, I've faced very little negative commentary for being Bengali. Most remarks are usually… (1/n)
— Ishadrita Lahiri (@ishadrita) August 1, 2020
I have often heard North-Indian aunties say, “Bangali ladkiyan bahut tez hoti hain”. By ‘tez’, they obviously don’t mean sharp or intelligent — they mean women with loose morals.
These stupid stereotypes have been around for quite some time, and largely stem from the bold and unapologetic image of Bengali women.
We have always stood up to men, and our assertiveness is an obvious threat to their perceived masculinity, which is why we are labelled a ‘witch’ or ‘dayan’.
But it’s not just about Bengali women. It’s about every woman who has been declared “difficult” because of who she is. It’s about all those women who have been hounded for being too bold, too outgoing. It’s about all the women who have dared to step outside their prescribed gender roles, and called “loose” or “problematic”.
Women always an easy target
Sushant Singh Rajput’s death sheds light on how women are blamed and held guilty whenever a crisis befalls a man.
The fact that Rhea Chakraborty has been already pronounced guilty on social media, even before the allegations against her are proven in a court of law, speaks volumes about how society loves to pin the blame on women.
Rajput’s former therapist Susan Walker has now come out to publicly support Chakraborty, emphasising how instrumental she had been in giving him the courage to seek professional help for his mental illness. Walker said that Chakraborty had been Rajput’s strongest support system.
Sushant Singh Rajput’s Therapist Susan Walker reached out to @themojo_in & broke her silence. Says Media’s irresponsible coverage on Mental Health dismayed her & made going public her “duty”. Says Sushant “suffered from Bipolar Disorder” & “Rhea gave him courage to seek help” pic.twitter.com/R4wITRsPcB
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) August 1, 2020
None of us really know the real reason behind Rajput’s death. We will never know what he was going through before he took the drastic step. So why then are we jumping the gun?
Earlier, too, tabloids blamed Rajput’s former girlfriend Ankita Lokhande for the end of their six-year relationship. Reports stated that Lokhande’s past experiences had made her insecure, which is what apparently led to the couple eventually calling it quits.
Pinning the blame on women for anything that goes wrong is a routine practice in India. Remember how actor Anushka Sharma became the target of abusive online trolls every time her husband Virat Kohli did not have a good day on the cricket pitch.
Even in Pakistan, tennis player Sania Mirza became the target of trolls after the country’s cricket team, which includes her husband Shoaib Malik, lost a match to India last year.
Black magic and women in Bollywood
This is not the first time that a woman from Bollywood has been accused of performing black magic on her boyfriend.
In 2016, actor Adhyayan Suman accused his former girlfriend Kangana Ranaut of the same, even saying she fed him “impure blood”.
Black magic is used as a tool by men to pull down their strong and assertive former girlfriends — just call her a witch and she will have to mend her ways.
The fact, however, remains that accusing Rhea Chakraborty, or Bengali women, of performing black magic won’t serve any purpose. Rajput’s fans must let the law take its course and the police investigate the reasons behind his death.
Using someone’s alleged misdeeds to shame an entire community is shameful, to say the least. Such ethnic and gender profiling is way too common in India, but doing it over someone’s death is even more deplorable.
Views are personal.