Disclaimer: I am not making any criminal allegations and I am NOT talking on behalf of Sushant Singh Rajput’s father (my father in law). This is an independent opinion and is a response to what was presented by Barkha Dutt (allegedly an audio recording of Susan Walker Moffat, who is alleged to be Sushant’s psychotherapist). Also, I am NOT a mental health professional so whatever I write about mental health is my own understanding, so please do not use it as an expert opinion.
I have been watching everything from the sidelines and analyzing the discussions happening around my brother-in-law’s death.
Sushant and I had a very healthy relationship and most of our conversations were around books and movies. I have known him since 1997 (my 8th grade) since his sister Shweta (my wife now), he and I went to the same school. Shweta and I were in the same grade and he was a grade junior. Whether you believe it or not, he was charming but shy and was known more popularly as Shweta’s little brother amongst my batchmates. Shweta and I had a little bit of chemistry and some batchmates teased us as “Jija-Saala” when we sat together on the school bus. That eventually was proven true in 2007 (thanks to the amazing coincidence that I went to IIT Madras for my undergrad and my wife went to NIFT Madras for hers, which gave us the opportunity to stay in touch and we eventually tied the knot in 2007). I had moved to the US in 2006 but stayed in touch with Sushant until early 2019 and then we lost touch. Now I can make sense of perhaps what transpired and his loss has left me with immesurable grief.
I am a feminist and I care about women’s issues. My first point is that caring about women’s issues is not incompatible with filing criminal charges against a female suspect. Calling criminal charges against Rhea misogynistic is an incorrect assessment of the situation. While on average, more men tend to engage in criminal behavior, criminality is not outside the purview of women.
My second point is that I do personally believe that there should not be a “special” stigma around mental health issues. Just like physical health, mental health is also an outcome of biology and the environment. The reason I said “special” is that it’s nearly impossible to completely eliminate stigma from health issues. For eg., if there is a person suffering from diabetes, there will be some amount of stigma about his/her lifestyle even if this person was genetically predisposed. Similarly, whether we like it or not, there is no country in the world where stigma around mental health is zero. I live in the United States and there is a tremendous amount of stigma around mental health here. So, even if we are able to bring down the “special” stigma, we might not be able to completely eliminate it. However, since there is an enormous amount of stigma today, mental health information is protected by the law of the land. Disclosing mental health information by a psychotherapist/psychologist is not only unethical but also illegal (except for certain circumstances which don’t apply here). I leave it to my father-in-law to press charges on this matter.
My third point is a question on the validity of Susan’s claims. Diagnosing mental disorders is an arduous task and diagnosing someone Bipolar (I or II) is even more so. Not only do you have to observe the person very closely, but you also have to observe them over long periods of time (it takes six years on average to diagnose after the onset of symptoms). Susan very conveniently diagnoses Sushant in less than two months (perhaps over a couple of appointments), with a life-changing diagnosis. And then she has the audacity to disclose this information in the public domain. If we are to believe Susan, another thing which does become clear is that it was Rhea indeed who was seeking treatment for Sushant and not Sushant himself. Prior to October/November 2019 (and certainly prior to meeting Rhea), as far as I know, no one who has lived with Sushant has ever complained about his mental health, nor has Sushant himself.
My fourth point is questioning Rhea’s role in the matter. I am not using any special information and I am quoting everything available in the public domain. The FIR claims that Sushant was perhaps given psychotropic drugs by Rhea (maybe even without his knowledge). Covert/Surreptitious medication is also perhaps illegal in the 21st century. There could be many explanations of this sudden onset of mental health issues in October/November of 2019. This could be a result of covert medication and withdrawal of psychotropic drugs (perhaps the covert medication stopped during their Europe trip in October 2019 [perhaps because of eating out mostly so no opportunity to covertly medicate him with food? or perhaps intentionally not medicating?], which led to withdrawal symptoms). And then, he was perhaps taken to the psychotherapist under the pretext of care. Another surprising thing is that setting up appointments and being present at the appointments (both done by Rhea) could be a sign of keeping a tab on Sushant’s conversations with the psychotherapist and keeping evidence of mental health issues so that it can be used later for blackmail or to justify the firm control on his resources. If what was bothering him was Rhea’s gaslighting and blackmail, Sushant probably was not given that privacy to discuss. The more important mental health discussion here could be that of Narcissistic Personality Discorder and/or sociopathy/psychopathy for Rhea. Sushant seemed to have suffered gaslighting at the hands of Rhea, based on the information in the public domain. Antisocial Personality Disorder is the more technical term for sociopathy/psychopathy and could be potentially diagnosed for Rhea (I am not diagnosing, only suggesting). Based on what happened, gaslighting seems to fit the bill, in addition to other methods of confinement and control. Again, I have every right to question based on the information in the public domain and unlike Barkha Dutt, I am NOT privy to the statements from Rhea’s psychotherapist and I am not disclosing private mental health information. Based on the evidence in the public domain so far and the claims in the FIR, Rhea is the prime suspect in this case. It will indeed be a shocking surprise to the entire nation if it is found in the court of law that she was a loving partner and not an opportunist who eliminated most of Sushant’s ties with his family and friends.
My final point is that of disappointment in Barkha Dutt in this matter. Please understand that I am not attacking all her work. I am very disappointed with the path she chose in this matter. Unless proven in the court of law that Sushant took his own life because of a mental illness that happened without any foul play (gaslighting, blackmail, covert medication, or overt overmedication), this is NOT the example to use to create awareness around mental illness. Even if proven in the court of law, the only thing that can be even remotely used is the awareness aspect of it with the intention to help and never the intimate details of the diagnosis or disclosure of diagnosis from the mental health professional.
Barkha Dutt could have chosen to emphasize the financial angle. Most crimes have a financial angle and when there are so many pointers (from regular cash withdrawals and large expenses to shell companies), she chose to NOT focus on them and that does reek of agenda.
As a fellow feminist and an intellectual, I am very disappointed today and you will lose a lot of credibility amongst your readership. You still have an opportunity to amend by reflecting on the choice you made and perhaps apologizing for not deliberating on this enough before hitting publish. Perhaps, that will restore some trust in your journalism. Please understand again that this is not a personal attack but an expression of disappointment in the approach you took in the aftermath of our beloved Sushant’s death.