A study of online behavior by the University of Michigan concluded that conspiracy theories suggesting that Mr. Rajput was murdered were amplified by members the ruling B.J.P. and the TV networks that operate as extensions of the Hindu nationalist establishment. Leaders and allies of the B.J.P. supported a demand by the deceased actor’s family that a federal agency probe his death.
There was a method to the madness: Mr. Rajput’s native state of Bihar, which sends 40 representatives to the Indian Parliament, is scheduled for state elections in October. Mr. Modi’s B.J.P., hoping to strengthen its grip on power in Bihar, positioned itself as fighting for justice for a son of the soil who was “murdered.” “We haven’t forgotten. We won’t let you forget,” reads a B.J.P. poster with the party’s electoral symbol and Mr. Rajput’s smiling face on it.
All this, as the pandemic was raging, the economy was tanking and about 2.5 million migrant workers from Bihar who had lost their jobs in Indian cities had returned to their villages.
On Aug. 19, federal investigators took over the case. Two other top agencies were brought in to investigate murder and money laundering. Nothing came out of it.
That is when, in late August, some old WhatsApp messages between Ms. Chakraborty and Mr. Rajput’s staff and friends, suggesting she procured marijuana for him, were broadcast by the right-wing television networks.
The Narcotics Control Bureau opened an investigation. The agency arrested Ms. Chakraborty and claimed that she was actively running a drug syndicate. She denied the charges, was refused bail and was sent to prison. (Last week, a top government medical board confirmed Mr. Rajput’s death was a suicide, and on Wednesday morning, after almost a month in prison, she was granted bail by a court.)
Social media accounts affiliated with the Hindu right and TV networks, which essentially work as extensions of Mr. Modi’s party, started frothing about the wild, wild ways of the film industry and its copious consumption of drugs. Beyond distraction, the assault on Bollywood, the most powerful cultural force in India, had a clear purpose: to force the film industry into complete silence and submission, and line up behind the B.J.P.’s Hindu majoritarian project.