India before elections: “YouTube Educators”

On: April 17, 2024 16:12

Millions of followers, billions of video views: The anti-government video made by political influencer Dhruv Rathee received an overwhelming response in India. This may be a nightmare for Hindu nationalists in India.

When Dhruv Rathee started operating, it moved millions of people. “Namaskar Dosto,” he greeted his followers, “Hello friends” is what it means in Hindi – and the 29-year-old has a lot of meanings. More than 20 million people follow the Indian on YouTube alone, and a renowned journalist recently described him as “the greatest and most loved YouTuber of his generation.”

And maybe that's why a particular video was so popular a few weeks ago. “Will India become a dictatorship?” asked the YouTuber in a provocative tone. “Definitely not,” may have been the initial response from his followers, he himself said. It seems that everything is fine in the country: “We can vote for any political party we want. The politician who gets the most votes will come to power. There is still democracy in our country.”

But it's not that simple – and to explain this, Dhruv Rathee spends half an hour listing in detail what shows that India's democracy is in danger: how the media is controlled and investigative authorities are used against the opposition – and how this is happening in real terms. the whole thing is about silencing criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, the BJP.

Government influence on the media

Most importantly, it was important for him to be factually correct, he said ARD-Interview. And that's why he cites reliable sources for everything presented in his videos. Behind this is thorough investigative work carried out by many often unknown journalists, who Rathee says are not well known elsewhere.

The most important newspapers rely mostly on government advertising, and there is little criticism on television, according to political scientist Vikram Visana of the University of Leicester. “The media environment in India now consists entirely of pro-Modi and pro-BJP news channels. And these channels are basically owned by big companies, namely companies that are profiting from Prime Minister Modi.”

Work from a safe distance

Therefore, YouTube is a place where independent journalists can still get a wide audience. In India, nearly half a billion people use video platforms. Anyone with a seven- or even eight-figure number of followers can easily finance themselves through ads shown in between videos.

But he is not a journalist at all, says Dhruv Rathee, but rather a “YouTube educator” of sorts. He and his team try to formulate complex topics in simple language: politics, science, history, social issues, or current news.

However, Rathee did not do this in India. The 29-year-old completed his master's degree in Karlsruhe, he is married to a German woman – and also speaks German. And that's why he now works from Europe – from a safe distance.

Concern for democracy

The government itself has never said anything publicly about the video. But he became the target of massive hostility from media close to the government. Rathee damaged India's reputation abroad, he alleged, especially after the “dictatorship” video. In addition, so-called trolls were sent to target him “by certain parties” and carried out online campaigns against him. It's about destroying his reputation.

In fact, his videos are unlikely to please Hindu nationalists in India, precisely because they reach so many people in the country. Mathematically, each of India's 500 million YouTube users has watched four of his films. And he is not the first person to have his YouTube videos blocked at the instigation of the Indian government.

Precisely because he dared to take a gloomy look in his video which has been watched millions of times. If the situation in India worsens after the election, Rathee says at the end of the half-hour “dictatorship” video, then it won't be long before the country becomes like Russia or North Korea. Elections will still be held. “But in reality, democracy has reached its end point,” Rathee said.

Is he perhaps unable to return to India one day because of such statements? Rathee was calm about it. “I hope that never happens,” he said with a laugh. “I am still very confident that the Indian people will choose wisely before it is too late.”

Peter Hornung, ARD New Delhi, tagesschau, 17 April 2024 09:13

Ambrose Fernandez

"Subtly charming web junkie. Unapologetic bacon lover. Introvert. Typical foodaholic. Twitter specialist. Professional travel fanatic."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *