A person with actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s name as his/her Twitter handle left a nasty comment on social media wishing death on Bollywood actor Anushka Sharma’s unborn child. This one tweet is a broad reflection of what the campaign seeking ‘justice’ for Sushant has become — evil, hateful, and round-the-clock harassment of anyone on social media who is not doing what these mostly anonymous trolls do: abuse people endlessly using a hashtag.
The #JusticeForSSR campaign has unleashed an internet army worse than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s IT cell. The campaigners have nothing to do with justice, and there is no headquarter setting the daily agenda for them. They have decided that Sushant Singh Rajput, who is believed to have died by suicide on 14 June, was murdered and his girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty is guilty. It doesn’t matter to them what the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) finds. It’s a free-for-all abuse circus.
And even though it might seem that those who are part of the campaign have nothing to do with the BJP, they do enjoy the political shield now, with the Bihar assembly election round the corner.
While the hashtag has become an excuse to vent frustration and abuse people, that is not how the Justice for Sushant army had started out.
When the news of Sushant’s suicide broke in mid-June, everyone was devastated. You, me, everyone. It was a strange loss, especially for middle-class India. All of a sudden, underdogs from small towns began to identify themselves with Sushant’s journey. Everyone wanted to end the toxicity and power structure that they believed had a role to play in Sushant’s death.
Soon, a potent army began to take shape. It rallied behind the actor’s death, trying to find reasons for his alleged suicide. Karan Johar to Alia Bhatt, everyone was blamed for enabling nepotism in Bollywood that didn’t let outsiders thrive. But nepotism is a forgotten word now. And the much-needed conversation about mental health taken a back seat.
Just look at any of the comments on actor Deepika Padukone’s posts, for instance. Someone who was among the first to speak up about depression after Sushant’s death faces a barrage of attack on anything she posts now — from comments like ‘depression ki aunty’, ‘depression ki karta dharta’ to ‘Depression Padukone’. The more hateful and nasty one can get, the more likes the commenter will receive.
But Deepika is not alone. Anyone not speaking the language of Kangana Ranaut, the actor that the frenzied mob is rallying behind with utmost loyalty, is being attacked, even when their posts have nothing to do with Sushant or the case.
An enemy of the people
American author Robert Jordan once wrote, “But men often mistake killing and revenge for justice. They seldom have the stomach for justice.” The Justice for Sushant army has become like that. It refuses to wait for the CBI to complete its investigation. Only now, with the upcoming Bihar assembly election, the BJP IT cell has joined the party — making full use of it to attack the opposition, and distract people from China, Covid and the sinking economy.
The evolution of the Justice for Sushant army points towards an insidious problem. It suggests that any tragic incident that sees ordinary people coming together to grieve can, and perhaps will, turn into a weapon to be used against the people, to whip up national frenzy. This crowd is dangerous for every Indian — those who are part of it and those who become its victim.
It also suggests that such an army doesn’t need any Amit Malviya to give it the green signal. Members of IT cells of political parties engage in everyday attack and abuse because they are mostly being paid to do so. But this Justice for Sushant campaign has turned against people, sometimes without any cause.
It is a sign of what lies ahead — a self-developed campaign born out of collective response to a tragic case can mutate into a hate crusade, with the IT cell taking over the ‘cause’. The ‘justice seekers’ will then get swept away by any ‘narrative’ injected into their ‘campaign’ by unknown entities. Anyone being a cheerleader of this hate campaign today must remember that they will become its victim tomorrow. All it will take is one comment or post.
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