Rhea Chakraborty and a Medieval Tale of Misogyny, Marijuana and Mental Health
image: Instagram(Rhea)

In India, there are many laws that are not followed, but we rarely bat an eyelid. India records 21 dowry deaths a day, dowry being illegal in India, and less than 35% are convicted. Child marriage is illegal, but nearly 16% of adolescent girls between 15-19 years of age are currently married in India. Child labor is prohibited, but around 13 million children are working in some form or the other. These are laws that are routinely flouted and we see them around us and we rarely raise our voices.

Recently, Rhea Chakraborty’s brother has been arrested for possession of or transferring marijuana and she might be too. Undoubtedly, using drugs is illegal. But are they dangerous to the society like flouting the aforementioned laws are? Cannabis, in the form of Bhang, is regularly consumed by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs during their festivals and ceremonies. In fact, it was legal to consume cannabis till 1985 in India, when due to the international pressure from the USA, we banned it. This herb mentioned in the Atharvaveda, our holy book, was banned due to external pressure! Because of this, even BJP leaders have petitioned their own central government to reconsider this and even their own relatives have suffered.

Another thing that has gotten lost in this entire story is that Sushant Singh Rajput, as per the statement to the NCB, was consuming drugs much before Rhea entered his life. He was depressed as well and she was his primary caregiver. If anything, she was his primary support in his darkest moments and not his family that is now after her. In fact, had she legally married him and not merely live-in with him, she would qualify for a case of harassment of a daughter-in-law under Indian laws that are meant to protect newly-wed women from harassment by their in-laws. She did not introduce him to drugs. She was not the cause of depression. So far as we know, she did not launder money from Sushant’s account. From what we know thus far, nothing she did contribute in any way towards abetting Sushant’s tragic suicide, for which she is facing an FIR.

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Hence, if Rhea gets arrested, as the mob is demanding, due to the purchase, transfer, or possession of marijuana, it would be a travesty of justice as she was not holding the prescribed quantity which invites the registration of a case. Further, it may be observed that the consumption of cannabis is a part of our culture but hidden due to a law foisted on us due to international pressure and should be recognized by those who decry malign Western influences in our culture, which by the way is going in the other direction and legalizing cannabis gradually. If she had possessed some other drugs too, we could talk of helping her and those addicted and criminalizing the peddlers and not the buyers, and that is something that is addressed further. Let it also be noted that Rhea’s brother is currently under custody neither because of buying marijuana for Sushant nor because of thereby contributing to his death (because Sushant did not die of a cannabis overdose). He is being probed to see if he was part of a wider peddling network, an observation many commenters seem to have overlooked, maybe even willingly. In that case, as with others, let the law take its course.

More importantly, therefore, it will take us nowhere nearer to our quest for #JusticeForSushantSinghRajput because it will not address the following points:

  1. It will not address why he could not talk about his mental health openly in society.
  2. It will not address what and who got him into drugs in the first place and if he had access to anonymous addiction treatment groups and centers ahead of, and after, those who peddled these drugs to him. This includes not only marijuana but possibly even prescription drugs if the latest FIR against Sushant’s sister holds, where she is accused of prescription forgery.
  3. It will not address the nepotism in the industry and whether it was a factor in his ultimate decision or whether they contributed to the above problems, which may or may not have been causally interlinked.

So, the witch-hunt of Rhea; what is it all in the aid of? And probably, we all know the answer to that as well. Answering the above questions pose uncomfortable truths to our own selves:

More:
  1. It forces us to confront that even today we see mental illness as a weakness.
  2. We still see addiction as a crime and not something that needs to be treated, and therefore criminalize, in our view, the buyers instead of the peddlers as noted above in the case of Rhea as well.
  3. Nepotism in its worst forms that exist at the top has been encouraged by us, whether it is in politics or in entertainment.

So, we must instead burn a witch at the stake of token reform because actually reforming our society is difficult and we generationally have had no compunction in sacrificing the lives of women. It requires us to challenge our own weaknesses. It requires us to admit that it was we who were responsible in many ways for Sushant’s death. But we do not have that courage, and understandably so. Who wants to admit to culpability for the abetment of suicide?! So instead, Rhea will have to do to mollify our righteous indignation that hides our own shame. In the process though, all we have done is heaped more guilt on ourselves by making a witch of a woman whose crime has not been established as abetment of suicide but the possibility of handling a drug, where she herself is a victim of our laws and society. The only hope now is that Rhea is not as weak as us and does not allow herself to be burned at the metaphorical pyre in this modern-day Sati.

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Rit Nanda
M.Sc. Energy, Trade and Finance, City University, London. Supply Chain and Human Resources Supervisor and Consultant. "Opinionated, but always willing to listen". Contributor to The Eastern Herald.