Even as one was shocked on hearing about the untimely death of 24-year-old popular television actress Pratyusha Banerjee, who allegedly committed suicide on April 1, the fallout of the tragic incident, besides the media circus that followed, is not known to many.
The leaked video of the deceased’s corpse left many of us disturbed. Within few hours of Pratyusha's death there were visuals and video of the corpse on the internet which would pop out with one click within a story on Pratyusha.
Seema Hingorrany, clinical psychologist and trauma expert, says, “The psychological impact on those who are sensitive or are already undergoing treatment for depression was terrible. My 11-year-old female patient, who saw the video on her mobile began asking me questions like, ‘Is it easy to die?’ ‘What happens when one hangs oneself?’ I always tell these children's parents to keep them away from such things as it gives them ideas, it’s a fool-proof method of dying. Children, who are in a depressed state, on seeing such images and video wonder if people will start talking about them, too, as they don’t understand that Pratyusha or Jiah Khan were public figures.”
Further, talking about the incident, the psychologist says, “Why kill for a guy? If a girl hypothetically is in an abusive relationship it is her responsibility to take help and not continue in that relationship. She has the choice to walk out or take help of relationship experts. Nobody can be blamed for that. Many people come to me and we give help by providing NGOs contacts."
"If she was beaten up she should have taken help of the police, therapists. Nobody can push anybody to the point of suicide. Maybe her depression remained undiagnosed but choice can definitely be made.”
A day after Pratyusha allegedly committed suicide, the Mumbai Police took her boyfriend Rahul Raj Singh in custody for questioning. He was, however, let off later in the day with investigators almost ruling out foul play at that point of time. Rahul, who had been living with Pratyusha, had rushed her to Kokilaben Ambani Hospital after allegedly finding her hanging from a ceiling fan in their Goregaon home.
However, Rahul, who is currently recuperating in a Mumbai hospital after he complained of chest pain and breathlessness, has not been given a clean chit as per the investigating officers at Bangur Nagar police station.
And even as the investigations are on, many of Pratyusha’s friends from the television industry have come together with their own version of the tragedy. While Pratyusha’s accomplice in the Bigg Boss house, Ajaz Khan, cried foul saying it is a murder and that police should investigate, friends Kamya Punjabi and Vikas Gupta came out in public with their own theory.
"There were injury marks on her nose, under her eyes. We have taken pictures (as a proof)....police are probing domestic violence angle. We will give our statement to the police," Pratyusha's actress friend Kamya told reporters.
"She was having trouble in her personal life. She had distanced us from her so we don't know exactly what happened. She was away from her family. As friends we know she was having problem," Vikas said. Pratyusha's other close friend, Sara Khan was quoted saying that Rahul was the culprit as he had disappeared from the scene after bringing her to the hospital.
Further, Vikas had called for a press conference on Sunday, April 3, where he addressed the media about the issue. Vikas told reporters that along with him, there are other friends of the actress who can come out and openly talk about the issues in Pratyusha-Rahul's relationship. He also said that Rahul has physically assaulted Pratyusha in public many times in the past. Vikas feels it isn't a simple 'suicide case' and there's 'more depth in it'. He has also requested the police to record their statements but also revealed that no one had come to meet him yet. With this statement, the entire suicide row might have taken another turn. However, the investigating agency is not commenting upon this.
These friends of Pratyusha might be trying to help her departed friend and her parents get justice but one wonders if this is hampering or helping the police in its investigations.
A senior scribe, who has been following the case, adds, “Who are these people (meaning friends of Pratyusha), what are their credentials? Vikas Gupta himself has a shady past. It is all sham, why didn’t they help their friend Pratyusha when she was being abused by her boyfriend? Where were they then? Why didn’t they tell her to lodge a police complaint then? By giving such statements to the media, they are trying to sabotage the case. Who knows, some of her so called friends might be having some enmity with Rahul Raj.”
Many media-persons, after attending the press conference on Sunday, felt it was all sham and a publicity stunt to get some mileage and attention.
KMM Prasanna, Additional Commissioner of Police, Crime, says “Everybody has got the right to voice their opinion within reasonable restrictions otherwise we will be called intolerant. If somebody is privy to any information regarding the case can either call the police directly or the investigating agency will connect if required. If these friends of Pratyusha actually want to help in investigations and are not after some publicity then they can approach their local police station. Nobody is stopping them to do so. It all depends upon their intentions.”
Senior Inspector and Investigating officer, Santosh Bhandare, Bangur Nagar police station, adds, “We are all free citizens of India. People can hold press conferences. My area of investigation is only related to the accidental death of Pratyusha. I am only concerned with that. If the allegations made by her friends help me, I will approach them. Inquiry is still not over, we have not come to any conclusion.”
Meanwhile, Rizwan Siddiquee, lawyer, says, “Police doesn’t go by what people are saying on the media platform. It draws its own opinion through their findings after proper investigations. They don’t draw conclusions from opinions. They don’t even read what appears in the press. But yes, public image of the person they are accusing gets affected."
However, Vishal Manghnani, a senior advocate and spokesperson for a legal firm strongly feels that police should use Pratyusha’s friends as witnesses. “Police should use them as independent witnesses, it is always good for investigations. Even if these witnesses are alcoholics or drug addicts, cops should talk to them. Police often wait for some hard proof like letter or photographic evidence to surface in such matters which is often not possible to get.”
Seema Sinha is a Mumbai-based journalist.
First Published On : Apr 6, 2016 14:07 IST