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How the might of India’s federal investigative agencies came to be trained on one young woman

How the might of India’s federal investigative agencies came to be trained on one young woman

One Sunday afternoon in June, the body of a young actor Sushant Singh Rajput was found hanging in his apartment in the plush suburb of Bandra in Mumbai. The Mumbai police told reporters that it was a case of death by suicide.

There was an instant outpouring of grief.

In his short career, Rajput had endeared himself to both viewers and colleagues in the Hindi film industry. He had worked in television before making his film debut with Kai Po Che! in 2013. In 2016, a big break came his way with the lead role in the biopic of cricketer MS Dhoni.

Like Dhoni, Rajput was an outsider to the world of metropolitan glitz, having grown up in Patna in Bihar. His status as an outsider to the film industry paved the way for public grief to turn into anger over nepotism in Bollywood.

Conversations that began with mental health coalesced into conspiracy theories about Rajput being driven to suicide by a group of established film families. This neatly dovetailed with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s larger cultural narrative about corrupt elites. Actors Kangana Ranaut and Shekhar Suman demanded an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation. Bihar politicians across the spectrum joined in the clamour for a central...

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