'Innocent until proven guilty should be the motto of the legal system in India.'
'Innocent until not proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent.'
Recounting how she was branded a 'chudail' or a 'witch' after she was accused of abetting her then partner Sushant Singh Rajput's suicide by his family, Rhea Chakraborty said that any woman who didn't subscribe to patriarchy is called such names.
Chakraborty was speaking at the session 'Rising from the Ashes and Finding Herself' on Day Two of the India Today Conclave Mumbai 2023.
Asked whether being called a witch affected her, the 31 year old said: "I kind of like the name chudail."
"Back in the day, who was a witch? A witch was a woman who did not subscribe to the patriarchal society or her own opinion that was against the popular opinion of men and the patriarchal society. Maybe I am that person, maybe I am a chudail, Maybe I know how to do black magic," added the actor, who after Rajput's death became the subject of intense trolling and media scrutiny, which many felt was a 'witch-hunt'.
Rajput, 34, was found hanging at his apartment in Bandra (north west Mumbai) on June 14, 2020. After a case of alleged abetment to suicide was registered against Chakraborty by Rajput's parents, a parallel probe into alleged drug procurement by her also began on the basis of her WhatsApp chats.
In relation to the case, Chakraborty was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau in September 2020 and was later shifted to the Byculla jail, central Mumbai, where she spent almost six weeks. She is currently out on bail and the matter is sub judice at the Bombay high court.
"Unfortunately, even today, if some man is successful and he gets married and his success ratio drops they will say, 'Dekho, jab se ye zindagi mein aayi tab se ye iska career kharab ho gaya hai'. It's almost like the man had no identity before the woman.
"Men in India most definitely do not listen to their wives or girlfriends. If they did, it would've been a much better society. It is a patriarchal society and that is why a lot of the things being said about me were in the sphere of patriarchy, ki isne aisa kiya, jab se ye aayi wo badal gaya," Chakraborty stated.
For the actor, who currently features on the reality show MTV Roadies season 19, the time she spent in prison was a 'humbling experience'.
"Jail can't be easy. It is interesting because you are removed from society and are no longer a part of it. You are put in this place because you are no longer fit to be in society for whatever reason. You are deemed to be unfit. You are no longer a person, you start viewing yourself as nothing. You are a number, you do as told," she said.
"You are given a few moments of happiness in your life, snatch them, and that's what I learnt from jail. I'm here to snatch it," she added.
"Innocent until proven guilty should be "the motto of the legal system in India", said Chakraborty.
"Innocent until not proven guilty, not guilty until proven innocent," Rhea said. "I believe all the women have faced the same in that jail and they are innocent like me. I learned from them that some of them have been there for many years. Most of them do not even have access to lawyers or do not have family support like I did."