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Like Sushant, I’m An ‘Outsider’. I’ve Faced Nepotism In Our Courts

It’s easy to call out Karan Johar for nepotism, but what about nepotism in our own professions?

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A lot has already been said about Sushant Singh Rajput’s death. Being a Bollywood actor and celebrity, the outpouring of emotions on social media was expected. 2020 has been a cruel year, and it had already taken away two favourites – Irrfan and Rishi Kapoor – and, like many others, I had felt bad about their deaths. But what Sushant’s suicide triggered in many of us, including me, is a different kind of trauma.

Sushant’s story is the story of every ‘outsider’ – every small town, middle class youngster who wants to make it big in any field, and who is alienated, bullied, mocked and sidelined to make way for ‘one of their own’, those who belong to cliques. That is what makes Sushant’s story so relatable.

Fortunately, Bollywood also has a Kangana Ranaut, who is known to frequently ruffle feathers by calling out nepotism and hypocrisy in the film industry, and every field – be it Bollywood, politics, law, sports, media or the corporate world – needs a Kangana to call a spade a spade.

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‘Nobody Wants to Risk Not Being In the Good Books Of Important People’

I met Sushant Singh Rajput a few years ago during the Femina Style Diva beauty pageant in which I was a finalist. When I told him that I was a lawyer and the president of my college, he was both surprised and impressed. He didn’t have any airs about him or the typical arrogance that comes with celebrity. He was like one of us – and seemingly unaware of his star status.

It’s easy to call out Karan Johar for nepotism, but what about nepotism in our own professions?
The author of the article with Sushant Singh Rajput.
(Photo: Himanjali Gautam)

On 17 June, I shared this post on my LinkedIn profile: “Nepotism isn't limited to Bollywood, and it's very prominent in the Supreme Court. It's just that nobody wants to risk not being in the good books of important people. ‘Who referred you?’ – was the first question asked by one of the top senior advocates when I applied at his chamber few years back (sic). When I told him that I am applying on my own, he didn't bother to go through my profile or ask me any question related to law or my experience (sic). That conversation ended there only. Had he rejected me on the basis of my knowledge, I wouldn't have felt so bad. I have only mentioned one incident but my initial years had many heartbreaking moments. Ironically these people give Lectures at different seminars and write for leading newspapers showing their concern for first generation lawyers and in the current scenario they are very upset about the plight of poor migrants. When are we going to have an honest conversation on nepotism in Courts. (sic)

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Victims of Nepotism Must Come Together & Raise Their Voice

At the time of writing this article, this post had over 1200 likes, and upwards of 35,000 views; my inbox is full of messages from students and professionals who have gone through the same pain of being neglected, rejected and not acknowledged.

I think people are slowly realising that the problem lies with those who blatantly discriminate on the basis of family background/surname, and ‘feel proud’ to serve the ‘high and mighty’.

Unless all of us – who have faced nepotism in one form or another – raise our voices and call out those who unethically discriminate and make us feel like ‘outsiders’, this problem isn't going to go away.

Many of my senior colleagues at the Bar are very good with words, and lecture the government and the whole world on how things should be, but the way they treat their juniors tells a different story altogether. Such is their arrogance that they look through you in the court corridors when you greet them. They may have both knowledge and experience, but that doesn’t give them the license to treat others poorly.

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Easy to Slam Karan Johar, Equally Tough to Call Out Nepotism In Your Backyard

Yes, there are a few wonderful people in my fraternity as well, and I happen to know them. By God’s grace, I am fortunate enough to have their support and can call or message them whenever I need guidance. Despite being busy they take out time to go through my articles and give me honest feedback so that I can improve, or they help me with the strategies of a technical case. I am very grateful for these selfless acts on their part.

It’s easy to find fault in a Karan Johar who mocks ‘outsiders’ on his chat show, but equally difficult to call out those within your own system who are just as guilty of discriminatory practices.

Staying mum means that we are part of the problem. The silence of those whose voices ‘matter’ has only fuelled this shameless system of offering opportunity and acknowledgment on the basis of who one is related to or connected with.

We don’t know the real reason as to why Sushant Singh Rajput chose to end his life, and we are not entirely privy to his personal struggles. But many have come out and spoken about him being treated as an ‘outsider’ in the film industry. And in light of mental health issues sometimes arising out of such nepotistic practices, we ought to bring about change in every profession, so that other Sushants do not have to suffer.

(Himanjali Gautam is an advocate practising in the Supreme Court, and often appears on various television panel discussions. She is also ex-president, LC2, Faculty of Law, Delhi University. This is a personal blog, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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