File photo | 'Hindustani Bhau' | Facebook

It took thousands of people to come together and mass report Hindustani Bhau’s Instagram profile. An action that should have been instant, swift, and default for violation of community content guidelines, required numerous Twitter trends and 48 hours of non-stop social media outrage before the abusive account was taken down from the photo-sharing platform. His Facebook page, too, has been suspended.

Think of this super-delayed action from the Facebook-owned app and then think of the horrors unleashed on women on these digital platforms every day by faceless troll armies. Those accounts might never get suspended because it requires another army to remind social media platforms about the harassment that is experienced by women who face threats of being raped and killed—day in, day out.

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The Hindustani Bhau episode lays bare the abuse culture that is being fed by advertisements, money, fame, brand value, and viral content full of pseudo nationalism. A meme in the comments section of Hindustani Bhau’s Facebook page perfectly explains this phenomenon — you don’t have to be a soldier to talk about protecting the country, you can simply sit in a car and abuse women or a country like China or Pakistan.


Also read: Facebook’s reluctance to take down problem posts must force India towards co-regulation


Abuse culture: From rape threats to bullying

The growing culture of abuse has seeped into people’s daily lives. No one cared two hoots when General G.D. Bakshi (retd)—who has become the face of the force on select TV news channels that chest thump nationalism 24×7—abused a fellow panelist using cuss words. In the ongoing controversy surrounding the alleged death by suicide of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, people didn’t mind some Bhojpuri singers wanting to rape Bollywood actresses Rhea Chakraborty and Alia Bhatt.

In the name of pseudo nationalism, for a layman, all abuse is justified on these platforms.

Rape threats, abuses, and bullying have become a major part of this online abuse culture. Be it Kangana Ranaut bullying Sara Ali Khan in the name of nationalism or Shubham Mishra wanting to rape a female comedian, or IT cell trending RGKMKB on Twitter.


Also read: Facebook, Twitter can’t police on speech violation. Only Indian law can


Fake commandos of virtual world

Hindustani Bhau’s case has been highlighted on Instagram and Twitter recently, but he is not alone. Shaurya Bhardwaj — someone who was seen in a mainstream Hindi film with Tiger Shroff — made a career out of online abuse. In the name of ‘motivational videos’ and deshbhakti, he abused frequently. The fake commando trainer has a virtual troll army that cheers for him.

Vikas Pathak who ran the Hindustani Bhau page had entered Bigg Boss as a ‘star’. Shubham Mishra, too, had told Gujrat Police how he thought he would be called to a reality show like Bhau was.


Also read: Salman, China, corona craze over, Bhojpuri singers now hurl all profanity at Rhea Chakraborty


When abuse generates revenue

The game of social media platforms is simple. You get the views, you get the advertisements. This is how you generate revenue. And sadly, abuse generates revenue these days. This is the revenue and viewership model of freedom of expression related to pseudo nationalism. It is not freedom of expression per se, but the endorsement of hate in monetary terms in the garb of freedom of expression.

This abuse, however, is not coming from one direction. People countering abuse, too, choose abuse. A look at Hindustani Bhau’s Facebook page— bombarded with thousands of abusive comments—confirms this trend. This abuse is promoted by Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with a verification badge, and there are very slim chances of such accounts being suspended. The rise of Hindustani Bhau aka Vikas Pathak, a bully mainstreamed by Bigg Boss and Colors channel, is a perfect example of a culture that celebrates abuse. An online abuser, who had more than 3.3 million followers on Instagram became a ‘cult’ among ‘youngsters’ across India.


Also read: Pakistan women journalists say they face online abuse by officials for criticising Imran govt


‘Cult’ and youth ‘icon’

People assuming that Bhau is no more active on Instagram and that the filth has been finally thrown out live in an illusion. He is not alone. There are thousands of youngsters who hail him as their icon, waiting desperately to consume his ‘crass’ videos. They leave comments such as, ‘bhai, aap hamare yahan Assam aao, aao hamare yahan Rajasthan aao‘. After his Instagram account was suspended, his followers created fan and meme pages in his name. Don’t be surprised if you see trends and hashtags seeking the revocation of his account’s ban. Or if you see multiple clones already taking shape on social media. You kill one account, and hundreds pop up, Matrix-style. Because the problem doesn’t begin and end with just Hindustani Bhau.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I don’t think Hindustani bhau is a youth icon. We also watch his videos and just we watch just for fun purpose we don’t see him as a responsible citizen or patriotic. Yes some worship him that’s where things get ugly just for your information he’s just good meme material and fun to watch with earphones on obviously.

  2. Jyoti Yadav, I am your fan. You have a skill to pick on the bigotry that plagues this country in various forms. Wanting to see another person down has been with the civilised human race for ages but making a religion out of it is a recent phenomenon. Thank you for covering this vituperative cult culture. Look at what the nation is doing to Rhea Chakraborty. It is archaic. Unbelievable that a whole nation can convict her based on fake news and assumptions. Unfortunate Bollywood as a fraternity did not condone this tendency.
    Could you also consider the topic of a conceptual change required in marriage in Indian families – in the context of considering the woman as the husband’s family property n the infinite expectations that come along with it. Like Vidya Balan says: In India, it is drama or nothing. Marriage can be purposeful n fulfilling with a lot less stress if many of these vulgar cultural frills are trimmed.

  3. After abusing “toxic” Bihari/ “cow belt” families, Ms Yadav has turned her attention to Hindustani Bhau.
    Good going!!
    Journalists like her, Mr. Shivam Vij, Ms. Shubhangi Misra are the reason why most people do not contribute or subscribe to The Print despite repeated appeals from Mr. Shekhar Gupta.
    Needless to say, journos like Mr. Snehesh Alex Philip, Mr. Mandal, Ms. Jyoti Malhotra and Mr. Shekhar Gupta have a solid grasp over their domains and are doing a brilliant job. But pathetic articles by a few wannabe woke journalists bring down the quality of content and result in loss of faith.

  4. Agreed sir, I fully agree with you.
    In our country, we have this mentality where crass behaviour is considered manly. And those who call it out are called as weak “manlets” or “soyboys”. More men should step forward and call out such people who are misleading our youth.

  5. Why do decent people refuse to come forward? Why do decent people refuse to enter politics?
    Culture of abuse.
    Forget the person, how many will accept being called an italian pros….. te? Dalal? Bhrashtachari no 1? Kacchadhari kilers? Janaudhari gaumootra peeney wala?
    Raise All scum of the gutter. Win elections.

    • True that….looking at the already murky political scenario, good people are scared to enter the dingy attic of this dark polluted arena. Wish we all had the courage to clean this shit and make our nation a better place for all to live in ?

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