The Sushant Singh Rajput saga, and the manner in which it has unfolded, has invaluable lessons for everyone and especially, for those in public life. What began as an open and shut case of suicide has over time reached a point where uncertainty looms large over the cause of his death. Simultaneously, a movement that demands justice for the deceased actor is still going strong even after six months.
The fans of Sushant Singh Rajput, or SSR as he is called fondly, have regularly been trending hashtags on social media platforms demanding that those they believe to be responsible for his death are held accountable for their crimes. There appears to be consensus among them that the tragic death of the actor was not a case of suicide but of murder. Numerous hashtags are trended every week demanding the same.
Within the space of a few days, #SSRWaiting4Justice, #JusticeForSushantSinghRajput and #UncoverSSRDishaKillers have all trended on Twitter. There are other hashtags with similar themes that have trended as well. The movement is clearly not dying down yet, at least in the digital space. But even so, news related to SSR are hardly debated by mainstream media anymore. It was once upon a time but no more.
Therefore, if Sushant Singh Rajput fans have a feeling at the pit of their stomach that they have been abandoned, they have every reason to feel so. Now and then, they can be spotted lashing out at individuals they perceive to be guilty of the sin of neglecting their cause. The actor’s ex-girlfriend Ankita Lokhande was the subject of their ire recently after she invited Sandip Ssingh to her birthday party, someone the fans believe had some role to play in the death.
The events since the death of the actor is extremely revealing about the nature of public movements and why some succeed while most fail. The movement demanding justice for Sushant Singh Rajput was clearly big at a certain point but with the passage of time, it has faded from mainstream public view and has been relegated to the sidelines where people observe them from a distance and wonder in bewilderment about their outrage. Why did it have to be this way?
The importance of institutional support
The movement demanding justice for Sushant Singh Rajput was clearly a big issue even weeks after the tragedy transpired. Why was it so? One of the primary reasons for it was that the movement had strong support among sections of the mainstream media. Since then, numerous significant developments have occurred within the country and the media has moved on.
Thus, currently, the movement does not have any institution backing them. And this is true for all public movements, which are, after all, the cornerstone of democracies. If an interest group wants their movement to succeed, then it must have institutional support. Otherwise, it is doomed to fail. Without institutional support, the movement has no credibility and the people invested in it would just appear to be part of a crazed mob.
It is also why the Trump movement did not succeed and the Hindutva movement has. Donald Trump managed to win the presidency but he was a rank outside with no support among the establishment of both parties. Therefore, he largely failed to deliver on some of his core campaign promises while the establishment ran rings around him. It has eventually caused his downfall as well.
The Hindutva movement, on the other hand, despite being a populist movement as well, has immense institutional support when compared to the Trump movement. It is the dominant ideology of the largest political party in India, has the organisational strength of the RSS at its disposal and has a proven track record in governance. Therefore, it was much easier to implement certain core decisions even though the rot within the state after seventy years of governance will take a significant time yet to clear.
The necessity of competent ‘Champions’
For public movements to succeed, it is of paramount consequence that it is led by competent men and women. All the institutional support will not yield results if the leaders are not competent enough or lack ideological clarity about the purpose of the said movement. It is not debatable that as of this moment, the ‘Justice for SSR’ movement does not have credible leaders.
There have been some that have tried to fill in the boots since institutional support for it collapsed but they lack credibility as well as competence. Vibhor Anand is one such character that comes to mind. The lack of credible and competent leadership to champion the movement is being acutely felt by those who want to see justice being served in the matter.
Again, the Trump movement comes to mind. For all his talent and ingenuity, Donald Trump was thoroughly incompetent as a leader of a movement. Either he did not recognize the monumental import of his presidential victory or was foolish enough to permit the Republican establishment to take him on a merry-go ride. He tried to ‘Drain the Swamp’ but the ‘Swamp’ devoured him instead. At the end of the day, he has to take the blame for the failure of the movement, just as he must be credited for the remarkable successes he has secured during the four years of his presidency.
Bernie Sanders is another such person. The undisputed leader of the Democratic Socialism movement in the United States of America and indisputably, thoroughly incompetent. As progressive commentator Jimmy Dore regularly says, Bernie Sanders is a horrible horrible leader. He folded meekly before the Democrat establishment without demonstrating the remotest desire to fight for his beliefs. And he ensured that his band of followers do not cause any trouble for the Democrat establishment either.
Contrary to the abovementioned instances, the Hindutva movement found two great champions in Narendra Modi and Amit Shah who led a dedicated set of soldiers for the cause to victory. It is true that the institutional support they had aided them greatly but ultimately, it was them that grabbed the movement by its collars and led it to victory and for that, they deserve all the credit.
For all public movements to succeed, they must have such Champions who can lead men to glory. Between institutional support and the necessity of competent Champions, both are absolutely crucial and it is not an either/or situation. A competent Champion will not be able to deliver victory without institutional support and institutional support will prove to be of no consequence if there are no competent leaders capable enough to harness its strength.
Feast for Vultures
Public movements are also great opportunities for individuals looking to make a quick buck or only instant fame. And the Sushant Singh Rajput Saga has seen enough of it already. In the absence of competent leaders and institutional support since the past few months, numerous ‘vultures’ have descended over the corpse of the movement to make their careers.
Human beings tend to be gullible about issues they care deeply about. Even in psychology, it is known that the ability to process things rationally is adversely related to emotional arousal. The more emotional a person is, the less his ability to think things out clearly. It is why we behave rashly when we are angry or more prone to being taken advantage of in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy or when a tragedy is potentially imminent.
Emotions are high during any public movement and very often, far more often than we might be willing to concede, the rage is used by characters with mala fide intentions for their own personal objectives. Very recently, we saw Khalistanis and political parties attempting to do the same with the protests against the new farm laws. We also discovered that Yogendera Yadav (?!) is now apparently a farmer leader.
Such things happen all the time everywhere. In USA, a rebellion is underway against the Democrat party establishment that is witnessing significant bickering even among progressives. Progressive leaders such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are being accused of betraying the movement and prominent progressive media personalities such as Cenk Uygur are being dragged through the mud as well.
Jimmy Dore, a comedian activist, had a public falling out with Cenk Uygur after the former proposed that progressive politicians withhold their votes which are absolutely consequential for Nancy Pelosi to be reelected speaker of the House if she refuses to hold a vote on ‘Medicare for All’. Cenk accused Dore of creating a ‘mess’ and was slammed by the comedian for taking millions of dollars from Clinton donors and asking people for donations in the middle of a pandemic and then ‘betraying’ them.
The ‘Justice for SSR’ movement has seen numerous such instances and will continue suffering such betrayals in the foreseeable future.
How Movements end: Amidst Shrill Cries and Cacophony
Nothing succeeds like success, a wise man once said. Similarly, nothing defeats like defeat. It is easy to keep a winning flock together. It is when a team is losing that it gets really difficult to ignore the differences between members and brush over the bitterness and divisiveness. It is as much true for football as it is for public movements.
When Arsenal won the FA Cup under Mikel Arteta, most of their fanbase were over the moon and believed that Arteta was the manager who would restore the club to its former glory. Months later, Arsenal are at 15th in the Premier League (Boxing Day Matchday begins shortly) and there is great bitterness among the fans and suddenly, all those issues which always existed are in focus again.
Some believe the Manager is solely responsible for the state of the club, some believe the people responsible for recruitment ought to take the blame as well, others say that it is the Board that has always been the issue and sacking the Manager will not help the team get better while there are those that say that the players are simply not good enough.
Most, however, agree that the team finding itself in a relegation battle was precipitated by all these factors. But a lot of these issues were present even when Arteta won the FA Cup or even at the end of the Transfer Window at the beginning of the season when Arsenals fans were still very optimistic; they have not emerged out of the blue. It was the hallow of victory that made Arsenal fans overly confident and ignore the glaring issues present at the club. And now everyone is screaming or depressed or outraged or all at once.
The same is true for public movements. When a movement goes on long enough without tasting any victory, then it inevitably deteriorates into cacophony and chaos before the light is eventually snuffed out of it. Everyone fights everyone, people who were allies only days ago, or even hours ago, are cast out and the band falters and splinters until eventually, there are not enough voices left to make a noise.
The end is not pretty, it is pretty pretty ugly. And the more intense a person’s involvement, the more scarred he is by the end of it.
Patience is the Key
Like with everything else in life, patience is the key to success for public movements as well. No Champion and no amount of institutional support has the capacity to deliver instant victories. The reclaiming of Ram Janmabhoomi took five hundred years. Of course, everyone likes a speedy resolution but a great deal of patience has to be exercised in order to reap the fruits.
Those still emotionally invested in the ‘Justice for SSR’ movement must observe patience as well. Authorities are still investigating the matter and investigative agencies still remain their best bet for justice. They would be much better off trusting investigative agencies than charlatans who promise quick success.
Of course, it is not easy. But then again, most things in life aren’t. Persistence is often the key to victories and it is persistence, more often than not, decides the fate of public movements.