Surviving a media trial: The story of Disha Salian’s family

The coverage of Disha Salian’s death showed Indian news channels at their unethical worst. It also maligned and devastated a family grappling with tragedy.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
Date:
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Sometime after midnight, or what would later be described in news and police reports as the intervening night of June 8 and June 9, 2020, actor Rohan Rai found himself in his 12th-floor apartment in Malad, standing at a window, telling himself to jump. He, his fiancée and a group of their friends had been partying since the night before. It had begun as a belated birthday celebration, which then unspooled into a cheerful, boozy get-together – a novelty after months of lockdown.

No one could have imagined that the party would end with Rai looking down at the dead body of his fiancée. At the time, he was convinced that this moment was a messed-up, alcohol-induced hallucination. He told himself that he just needed to snap out of it.

“I still remember I stood on that window and I thought that I should also...” Rai, 31, couldn’t finish the sentence. Instead, he gestured with his hand to indicate throwing oneself. Once, twice. “This is just a dream. Mein kood jaunga toh dream toot jayega [If I jump, then I’ll wake up from the dream] and I’ll be with her,” said Rai, breaking eye contact and looking away. “But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the strength to do it.”

It wasn’t a dream.

The body of his fiancée Disha Salian, sprawled on the ground, 12 floors below, was real. For Rai and Salian’s family, the nightmare had just begun.

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What happened to Disha Salian?

On the intervening night of June 8 and June 9, 2020, Disha Salian fell to her death from the 12th floor of her fiancé’s apartment. She was 28 and survived by her parents, Vasanti and Satish Salian, and her fiancé, Rohan Rai.

Rai and Salian met in 2013. He had recently moved to Mumbai from Delhi, where he had begun to do some modelling after having completed a degree in engineering from Panipat. “Disha was the one who helped me discover Mumbai. She introduced me to her friends. We started hanging out together and gradually, we fell in love,” said Rai.

Four years later, in 2017, the two of them took their first step towards getting married with a roka ceremony that they held at Salian’s parents’ apartment in central Mumbai. The couple then started house-hunting and in 2018, Rai bought a two-bedroom apartment on the 12th floor of a building in Malad, one of Mumbai’s suburbs.

Disha was the one who helped me discover Mumbai. She introduced me to her friends. We started hanging out together and gradually, we fell in love.
Rohan Rai

“Disha decorated the flat beautifully. Right from wallpaper, curtains to washing machine, everything was selected by Disha,” remembered Rai. He moved into the Malad flat in May 2019 and for the next year, Salian and Rai would divide their time between the apartment in Malad and Salian’s parents’ home in Dadar.

When Covid-19 reached Mumbai and a lockdown was imposed on the city, Salian and Rai were living with her parents. On June 4, 2020, Rai and Salian went to the flat in Malad because Rai had been cast for a commercial that would be shot on Zoom. After being sent photos of both the Dadar and Malad apartments, the director had selected Rai’s flat. Salian went with Rai and handled the camera for the shoot, which took place on June 5, 2020.

Vasanti Salian remembered speaking to her daughter around that time. “She called because she wanted a recipe,” said Vasanti. “I told her, get him [Rai] to do some work. She had office work too, you see. I told her, ‘Are you going to do all this [house work] or office work?’ And she said, ‘No, no Rohan’s helping me’.”

Both Vasanti and Rai’s faces broke into soft smiles as they remembered the conversation that had seemed unremarkable at the time. Almost two years after Salian’s death, it’s now a precious memory of how happily normal their lives had once been.

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Disha and her parents.

On June 6, 2020, Salian’s college friend Himanshu Shikre, who lived nearby, came over to Rai’s flat. The next day, Rai and Salian decided to have an impromptu, belated birthday party for Salian, who had turned 28 on May 26 that year. Another friend, Indraneel Vaidya, had his birthday on May 25. It was a joint birthday party. Along with Shikre and Vaidya, Resha Padwal and another friend, Deep Ajmera, were also invited.

“There was a tradition of celebrating their [Salian and Vaidya’s] birthdays together since they were childhood friends. So on June 7, all six of us partied,” said Rai. That night, Shikre, Padwal, Vaidya and Ajmera stayed over at Rai’s flat. On June 8, 2020, they decided to keep the party going.

Later, when Salian’s case would become the topic of prime time news debates, news channels like Republic and News Nation would claim Salian had attended a celebrity-filled party in Juhu on June 8, 2020.

In fact, Salian attended work calls during the day and the party she attended that evening was the one in Rai’s flat in Malad, with four of her long-time friends. CCTV footage from Rai’s building confirmed that Salian didn’t step out of the apartment after entering it on the evening of June 4.

“We started drinking and ordered pizza,” said Rai, when recounting the events of June 8, 2020. “The music was on and we were dancing. Disha wanted to have ice cream from Naturals so I ordered it. We were listening to Madhuri Dixit and Aishwarya Rai’s songs and arguing over who was better.”

The party she attended that evening was the one in Rai’s flat in Malad, with four of her long-time friends. CCTV footage from Rai’s building confirmed that Salian didn’t step out of the apartment after entering it on the evening of June 4.

At around 11 pm, Salian received a Facetime call from a close friend, Ankita, who lives in London. The two had a ritual of chatting every day and Salian went to the bedroom to talk to Ankita. They spoke for an hour and 10 minutes, and were interrupted a few times by the other friends who popped in occasionally while the party continued in the living room. At the end of the conversation, Rai recalls Salian seemed “emotional”.

“We all were drunk, actually,” Rai said. When he and a friend went to check on Salian, she was in the attached bathroom. “Some alcohol had spilled on her clothes, so I thought maybe she’s changing. I could hear the water running in the bathroom,” Rai said. They knocked on the door a couple of times, but there was no response from Salian. Rai and the friend returned to the living room, but Rai went back to see if Salian was fine within a few minutes.

This time, there was no trace of her anywhere.

“The light was on, the bathroom door was open. Indraneel followed me into the room. We started searching for her in the house, but couldn’t find her,” said Rai. He remembered even looking in a closet to see if Salian was inside.

“Then I noticed that the sliding windows of the master bedroom, including the netted one, were all pushed to one side. I just peeped out of the window for a second and,” Rai paused, “I recognised her.”

It’s obvious from the way Rai recounts these events that he’s gone over Salian’s last moments again and again. He’s been questioned multiple times by the Mumbai police in the course of their eight-month investigation into Salian’s death. Since Rai was one of the five people with Salian before she died, the police have turned to him and the friends who were present that night repeatedly to cross-check facts.

The only point at which Rai stumbled, while detailing the events of Salian’s last moments to Newslaundry, was when he had to describe the moment he realised that sprawled on the ground below his 12th-floor apartment, was a body that had on the track suit his fiancée had been wearing.

Almost two years have passed, but Rai still seems to struggle when he has to describe Salian as a dead body.

Salian’s case was different. Her death was discussed, dissected and misrepresented repeatedly in the press and on social media.

Errors + rumours = news

Since that night, Salian’s life and death have been part of a determined disinformation campaign that her family and close friends have felt powerless to stop. An accidental death is usually mourned for a few moments when it gets mentioned in a newspaper, but it’s then forgotten by everyone other than those who were close to the departed. Salian’s case was different. Her death was discussed, dissected and misrepresented repeatedly in the press and on social media. Salian’s name still pops up as a trending topic on Twitter during slow news days.

Salian’s death initially got coverage because she worked in the entertainment business. In the past, she had worked with well-established talent management agencies like Imagesmith and Kwan. Salian had assisted the managers of actors like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Prachi Desai, and comedian Bharti Singh.

When the news of her passing became public, actor Varun Sharma (whom she had handled exclusively at one point) and Singh were among the celebrities who put up posts on social media to express their condolences. The assumption at the time was that Salian had died by suicide.

Errors can be spotted in the very first set of articles that came out about Salian and with every passing week, fake news gained momentum.

Salian’s family tried speaking to the media, they filed police complaints, they even tried the legal route. However, the false claims have acquired a sheen of truthiness because they’ve been repeated so often by both journalists and on social media. The lingering afterlife of media-backed rumours have devastated those who loved Salian, whose death was pronounced an accident by the Mumbai police in February 2021.

“She had already died, but as a mother, I felt that the media was killing her daily for their professional benefit, by spreading fake news about her death,” said Salian’s mother, Vasanti.

Not only would the media make up “facts” about Salian in an effort to connect her death to that of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, journalists would claim Salian had been raped and murdered. Rai was presented as a prime suspect by news channels even though neither the police nor Salian’s parents believed this. There were also rumours that Salian’s family was taking bribes to cover up the truth behind her death.

She had already died, but as a mother, I felt that the media was killing her daily for their professional benefit, by spreading fake news about her death.
Vasanti Salian

“Friends, relatives, everyone used to keep asking us about the stories in the media and we repeatedly had to explain that the stories on news channels were not true. It was very traumatic to repeat the same thing again and again,” Vasanti told Newslaundry.

While the Salians would try to reason with the media and give the occasional interview, Rai kept his distance from journalists. Initially, he ignored the media requests for interviews because he was “not in a state to react”.

In the weeks following Salian’s death, Rai would get more than 100 enquiries from journalists, asking for a sound byte. Some reporters tried to con him into responding by posing as offers for shooting assignments.

“I didn’t want to talk to the media because I knew that they didn’t want to hear the truth,” said Rai. “They [the media] just wanted to run conspiracy theories on their channels in order to gain TRP [target rating points] and that's what they did. It was a media lynching for us.”

From the very beginning, the media coverage of Salian’s death was mired in errors. In reality, at the time of her passing, Salian had been a junior executive at the talent management agency, Cornerstone, which had Rajput in its list of clients. Salian joined Cornerstone in 2019 while Rajput came on board in 2020. She had barely any contact with the actor. However, the media claimed she had been his manager.

“Media guys kept narrating that Disha was Sushant's [Singh Rajput] manager or former manager. But she was never his manager. Uday Gauri was Sushant’s exclusive manager,” said Rai.

Uday Gauri, in addition to being Rajput’s manager, handled the entertainment section of Cornerstone’s operations. Effectively, he was Salian’s boss.

“In Cornerstone, Disha was working simultaneously with 17 artists, including Nusrat Bharucha, Kritika Kamra, Mouni Roy etc, but she was not the exclusive manager for anyone. She met Sushant just once, when she went to his home along with Uday [Gauri] for a costume trial. In fact, she had chatted with him only two or three times on WhatsApp. The chats were totally professional. They were about a Bata commercial and an Airtel campaign,” said Rai. “Cornerstone was aware that she was not his [Rajput’s] manager, but they kept their mouth shut when this whole fake theory was going on in the media and on social media.”

Misidentifying someone’s job could have been a minor mistake if it had been fact-checked and corrected. In Salian’s case, this error took on monstrous proportions after Rajput died (ostensibly by suicide) on June 14, 2020.

Connecting Disha Salian and Sushant Singh Rajput

The first piece of fake news about Salian appeared on June 9, 2020, hours after she was declared dead. A website called Peeping Moon ran an article with the headline, “PeepingMoon Exclusive: Did Sushant Singh Rajput’s former manager Disha Salian commit suicide over problems in her relationship with fiancé-actor Rohan Rai?”

The article, written by Nishat Shamsi, claimed ABP News as its source and said Salian was Rajput’s “ex-manager”, and that she and Rai had “ongoing problems” in their relationship. It also said that Salian’s parents did not approve of Rai, who was allegedly unfaithful to Salian.

Additionally, Peeping Moon wrote that the party at Rai’s flat had been attended by “8-10 TV celebrities”. The platform would publish another article on June 14, 2020, in which it claimed Salian had been Rajput’s “PR manager” in 2016, when MS Dhoni: The Untold Story was released.

All of this was factually wrong since Salian had never been assigned to Rajput and the party had no celebrities in attendance. In 2016, Salian had been working with Imagesmith and was assisting Aishwarya Rai Bachchan’s manager.

There was also no truth to Rai’s supposedly fraught relationship with either Salian or her parents. Vasanti and Satish Salian had opened their heart and home to Rai, and accepted him as Salian’s partner. While Satish had claimed Salian’s body from the morgue as her next of kin, it was Rai who lit Salian’s funeral pyre on June 11, 2020.

No one fact-checked the articles on Peeping Moon. Instead, the first one was picked up by other Bollywood “news” websites, like Bollywood Life and Koimoi, which churned out versions of that same article, repeating its factual inaccuracies. Among news websites, the digital edition of the Hindi publication Amar Ujala carried an article with the same information as in Peeping Moon, claiming a close friend of Salian’s as an anonymous source.

When Newslaundry asked Shamsi about misrepresenting facts in his report, he refused to comment.

No one fact-checked the articles on Peeping Moon. Instead, the first one was picked up by other Bollywood “news” websites which churned out versions of that same article, repeating its factual inaccuracies.

Salian and Rai’s friend Satwant Singh, who worked as an assistant director at the time, was sent the link to the Amar Ujala article. He wasn’t in Mumbai on June 8, 2020, but he was part of that friends’ circle and had spoken to Salian before her death.

Singh found the number of Pankaj Shukla, consulting editor of Amar Ujala in Mumbai. “I called him [Shukla] and said that I’ve seen this article, which claims Disha’s friends gave the information in it,” said Singh. He asked Shukla who the source was, pointing out that the friends who were at the party had not said the things that the article claimed. “The only other friend could be me, and I haven’t given anyone an interview. So who said all this to you?” Singh said, recounting his conversation with Shukla.

Shukla’s response allegedly contained a hint of a threat. “He said, ‘You sound very concerned about this issue. I should give your number to the investigating officer’,” remembered Singh. “I replied, ‘Please do. I’m already at the police station, so please go ahead. Just tell me who your source is first’.” Singh said Shukla hung up on him after that.

Shukla told Newslaundry he didn’t remember speaking to Singh.

About the story on Amar Ujala, Shukla said, “As I see the story, it is a spot story done from the place of the incident and as per information shared by the people present there that day.” He further said he would be happy to “get the follow up of the story done” and asked Newslaundry to share the names of those who were “present in the flat on the night of the incident and the following day” as well as Mumbai Police officers who have denied what has been attributed to them in the Amar Ujala story.

He said, ‘You sound very concerned about this issue. I should give your number to the investigating officer.’
Satwant Singh

All the articles with factual errors about Salian are still online (without any corrigendum).

These formed the foundation on which the later distortions and fake news would be built in an effort to connect Rajput’s suicide to Salian’s death.

The fake news trail

Linked to Rajput by the false claim that she had once been his talent manager, Salian became a regular feature of prime time debates on news channels, which frequently drew upon rumours and conspiracy theories that were circulating on social media without making any effort to verify them.

There were unfounded claims that Salian’s body had been nude when it was found by the police and that the postmortem report mentioned injuries that suggested she had been raped (neither was true). Posts on Facebook – uploaded by people who didn’t know Salian – said she had been pregnant with actor Suraj Pancholi’s child and attended a “coke party” on June 8, 2020, in Juhu, where she was gang raped. After leaving that party, she allegedly called Rajput, told him of her ordeal, and then took her own life. Another social media rumour was that the last call Salian had made was to the police.

All these baseless conjectures were presented as facts by news anchors like Arnab Goswami of Republic, Navika Kumar of Times Now, and Deepak Chaurasia of News Nation, who presented unverified claims as “evidence”.

“I saw on TV that they were linking Sushant [Singh Rajput] and Disha, but I couldn’t think about all this at the time,” said Vasanti, who is still grieving the loss of her only child. “I’d lost someone who was my own. Thinking of others wasn’t possible then,” she said.

On August 1, 2020, when Satish stepped out to pick up newspapers in the morning, a reporter from Zee News accosted him. “He told me that he will help me to clear the fake news related to my daughter’s death if my wife or I give them an exclusive interview,” Satish said. Vasanti ended up giving an interview to Zee News, but it did nothing to ease the frenzy or clear Salian’s name.

“The anchor was trying to put words in Aunty’s mouth,” Rai said about Vasanti’s interview with Zee News, “and the most annoying thing was that half an hour after they broadcast the interview, they started running the same fake stories about Disha.”

The anchor was trying to put words in Aunty’s mouth and the most annoying thing was that half an hour after they broadcast the interview, they started running the same fake stories about Disha.
Rohan Rai

Meanwhile, the interview on Zee News resulted in reporters from various news channels hounding the Salians and Rai. They’d been hanging around the Salians, Rai and his friends since June, but now their behaviour turned into harassment. Reporters surrounded the flat in Dadar as well as Rai’s flat in Malad. The Salians disconnected their calling bell, but reporters would start banging on the Salians’ door from 5.30 am and continued harassing them at least till 10 pm. After three days, the Salians shifted to a relative’s home in Borivali to escape the press.

Two weeks after the Zee News appearance, Satish and Vasanti spoke to India Today. This time the interview was facilitated by the Mumbai police, who were also hoping to stop fake news from circulating. Rai described it as “a decent interview”, but the media continued to peddle rumours about Salian, sourced from dubious online commentators.

Rai also tried to stem the flow of baseless rumours about Salian. “Uncle and Aunty were continuously receiving links, forwards, screenshots of fake news and posts on their phones, and they were traumatised by it,” Rai said. He followed a trail of shares and reposts to trace the origin of some of the conspiracy theories about Salian’s death. When he identified the writers of the original posts on Facebook, he went straight to the police.

“On July 13, [2020] I filed a [police] complaint against actor Puneet Vashist, one Sandeep Malani and Naman Sharma for spreading fake news and defaming Disha,” said Rai.

When officers from Malvani police station called up Vashisht and Malani, they were immediately apologetic and admitted they had no personal knowledge of the facts of Salian’s case. Vashisht told the police he had only forwarded the post. Malani started crying in the police station and apologised for his online activity.

News channels didn’t pick up this development and neither did Times Now air the interview that Satwant Singh gave to reporter Aruneel Sadadekar, hoping to set the record straight about Rai and Salian.

“I gave him [the Times Now reporter] a telephonic interview in Rohan’s presence and provided all the details related to Disha’s death. He [the reporter] was excited and told me the interview would be aired soon. But the days passed and we kept waiting. I inquired with him many times. Finally he told me his bosses will decide whether to run the interview or not,” said Singh, who is convinced that TV news channels were “not in the mood to listen to the truth”.

When contacted by Newslaundry, Sadadekar said he wouldn’t comment on this issue.

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Photo of Disha Salian, provided by her family.

Meanwhile, Republic did give time to Patna-based Prashant Kumar, who is a self-proclaimed activist and the man behind a campaign titled “Insaaf SSR” (Justice for SSR). Kumar put up a post on Facebook – complete with a disclaimer that his theory may be “factual or fictional” – in which he claimed Rajput had been killed to cover up the “truth” that Salian had been raped and murdered by four actors and a politician, whose names she had given to Rajput before being killed.

Despite Kumar having no evidence to back any of this, Arnab Goswami declared this was an “important revelation”. Channels like Republic and Times Now gave credibility to the people who were simply speculating about Salian and Rajput’s deaths, without ever attempting to either corroborate their claims or identify their anonymous ‘sources’.

To the Salians, it’s now obvious that the news channels were exploiting their daughter’s tragic death to score higher ratings. That this issue was grabbing the audience’s attention was obvious from social media trends. On a Republic programme aired on September 23, 2020, the tweet counter shows 1,376 tweets at 9.21 pm with the show’s hashtag, which referred to Rajput and Salian’s deaths. By 9.22 pm, the number had gone up to 1,526.

According to this website, Republic’s Hindi channel, Republic Bharat, got double the number of impressions mid-June 2020 onwards compared to February 2020. By September 2020, when the coverage of Salian and Rajput’s deaths was most frenzied, Republic Bharat was the top-rated Hindi news channel. Among English news channels, in September 2020, Republic and Times Now were ranked first and second respectively.

Between August and October 2020, Republic did 54 shows on the investigation into Salian’s death, of which more than 40 were telecast in September 2020.

On August 4, 2020, union minister Narayan Rane held a press conference in Mumbai where he stated Salian and Rajput had both been murdered and their deaths were made to look like suicides. When he spoke to Times Now, Rane referred to Salian as “Rhea Salian” while the reporter called her “Richa Salian”.

Later, Rane’s son Nitesh, who is a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator, claimed to have proof that Salian had been murdered. He also declared Rai should be considered a prime suspect because apparently, his behaviour on the night of Salian’s death was suspicious.

On August 4, 2020, union minister Narayan Rane held a press conference in Mumbai where he stated Salian and Rajput had both been murdered and their deaths were made to look like suicides.

On September 14, 2020, Republic did seven shows in which it speculated about Rai’s role in his fiancée’s alleged murder.

Rai was now the subject of a new set of rumours. He’d already been accused of being unfaithful to Salian. Now questions were raised about why he hadn’t been the one to take Salian to the hospital and no one was interested in the answer. While Salian’s friends were rushing to find a hospital that would take her, the police had been questioning Rai as part of the routine process of probing an unnatural death.

Nitesh Rane declared in the Maharashtra legislative assembly that he had proof that Salian was murdered. He also claimed that the police investigation was “being done in a particular manner to save someone”. The details of the evidence that Nitesh claimed to have, is yet to be disclosed. At one point, Nitesh told news channels that he had spoken to Rai even though Rai told Newslaundry he had not been in touch with any politician.

As part of his efforts to discredit the Mumbai police, which was investigating Salian’s death while Rajput’s case had been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation in mid-August, Nitesh also alleged Rai was absconding. Once again, the media broadcast this allegation without investigating it for themselves.

Rai had been in Mumbai till August and visited his parents in Gujarat in September before returning to Mumbai on September 16, 2020. In fact, he was at the police station in Borivali for a routine questioning when he heard his own name on a news channel. A news anchor asked angrily, “Where is Rohan Rai hiding? Where is he?”

He was sitting with the investigating officer in Salian’s case, inspector Arjun Rajane, and the then deputy commissioner of police for Zone 11, Vishal Thakur.

Surviving trial by media

The Salians stopped watching the news or reading newspapers approximately a month after their daughter’s passing. It was an act of self-preservation at a time when the grieving family felt particularly vulnerable. “They were defaming her [Salian] left, right and centre with fake theories of her rape and murder,” said Vasanti. “I pray that no mother has to go through this.”

However, cutting themselves off from the media didn’t lessen the impact of the news channels’ relentless and inaccurate coverage, which both drew from the social media campaigns and fuelled them. The brunt of all this was borne by those who were closest to Salian while she was alive.

Rai said he has lost numerous professional projects because the film industry is wary of the controversy surrounding him. In 2021, Rai appeared in an ad for Britannia. It was the first ad he’d done since Salian’s death. “People started tagging the company on social media and tweeted to boycott it. Some YouTubers started raising objections against me being featured in the commercial,” Rai said. While Britannia stood by him, Rai’s social media accounts remain filled with abusive comments.

Rai’s father, Balvinder Rai, said he suffered a minor heart heart attack in September 2020 because of the stress caused by the way the media attacked Rai and maligned Salian. “People who were our friends started gossiping about us,” said Balvinder. “Only three or four people came to support us emotionally.”

Vasanti and Satish have become increasingly isolated. “Earlier I used to go out for evening walks, but now I have stopped because people keep staring at me,” said Vasanti. “My own friends and relatives believed the media more than me. I kept explaining the facts, but they thought that if it's in the news, then it must be true. They don’t call or talk to me,” said Vasanti.

People who were our friends started gossiping about us. “Only three or four people came to support us emotionally.
Balvinder Rai

Satish fell out with his business partner because of disagreements arising from the media coverage. “I suffered financially, but I ended my relationship with him because he believed the fake news on media channels and social media about Disha’s death,” Satish said. “He kept saying to others that we have crores of money to hide the truth about our daughter’s death. I was shattered and angry. Do you think any parent can hide the death of their daughter or son for money?”

The increased stress has worsened Satish’s diabetes and he has had to undergo six surgeries in the past two years. “I try to control my emotions or else everything will collapse. Whenever I am sad, I give myself a false hope by thinking Disha has gone to America or some foreign country for three-four years and that's why she is not able to see us. This false hope has helped me survive,” said Satish.

The facts of the case

The Mumbai police investigated Disha Salian’s death for eight months and finally closed the case in February 2021, declaring it an accidental death.

In addition to a postmortem and forensic tests to determine if she’d been raped, the police gathered evidence from a variety of sources before arriving at the conclusion that Salian’s death was a tragic accident.

“Test reports said there was no male DNA found, which clarifies that it was not rape,” said inspector Arjun Rajane. “Using cyber forensics, we tracked the last seven days’ movement for Disha and Rohan from the night of her death. It helped us to corroborate Rai’s statement and also the locations Disha visited in the last seven days [before her death].”

Salian’s mobile phone and laptop were examined. Officials spent 21 days combing through four days of CCTV footage, from the date of Salian’s arrival to Rai’s flat till the night of her death. The footage confirmed that while Rai had stepped out in this time, Salian hadn’t. The police also went through one week’s worth of Salian’s call data records and questioned everyone she spoke to in that duration.

While there had been much speculation in the media that Salian had called the police before she died, it turned out that her father had been the one to make that call a few days prior to Salian’s death. “Disha’s father dialled 100 from her phone on June 3, 2020 in order to inquire about the Covid rules and restrictions related to movement,” said Rajane.

Both Salian’s friends and family as well as the police are satisfied with the investigation.

“We questioned 42 people,” said Rajane. “We took statements from eyewitnesses who were sitting close to the building and saw Disha’s body for the first time [after she fell]. We even tracked down the delivery boy who came to deliver pizza that night. We didn’t leave any loophole in the investigation and [tried to] nullify all the fake narratives run by the media.”

Unfortunately, despite the police report that declares Salian’s was an accidental death and multiple complaints by Salian’s family – including letters to the president as well as a legal case of defamation against the Rane duo – the lies about Salian persist in public memory.

Newslaundry has written to Pankaj Shukla, Uday Gauri and Cornerstone for their comments. If they respond, this report will be updated with their replies.

Edited by Deepanjana Pal

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