Woman seen heckling old Muslim man not “reporter” but part of right-wing ecosystem of hate

Controversial rise of YouTube channel ‘The Rajdharma’ has raised concerns about the mislabelling of content on the internet as journalism, boding ill for a serious dilution of both journalism and ethics.
Youtube Screengrab

Recently, an interview, which resembles more of a recorded heckling, of an elderly, Muslim man from Nuh, Haryana went viral. The video features Archana Tiwari, an employee of a YouTube channel named ‘The Rajdharma’ asking aggressive questions to the old man. The video has garnered over 750,000 views since it was uploaded on August 3, 2023.

Founded by a man named Raghvendra Pratap Singh and Akash Mishra in March 2017 according to LinkedIn, Rajdharma operates out of New Delhi and, according to information sourced from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs filing, is registered as Rajdharma Media LLP. The company’s primary focus seems to be producing digital media content, with a pronounced emphasis on news and current affairs. Their reported employee count is of 2-10 individuals.

Rajdharma has witnessed an unprecedented surge in popularity over the past eight months, with its subscriber count skyrocketing from 19.2 lakh to a staggering 2.9 million. This meteoric rise in viewership has left many intrigued, prompting a closer examination of the channel’s content and affiliations. The rapid rise of ‘Rajdharma’ on YouTube has piqued interest, prompting scrutiny of its content, contributors, and affiliations. The channel’s tendency to showcase interviews and reports that seem to lean towards a particular ideological stance raises concerns around the nature of media and content it produces, and it’s wilful tag of being a proponent of journalistic integrity.

Central to the channel’s content is Archana Tiwari, a self-proclaimed “journalist”, identified as an anchor at Rajdharma. Her association with the channel seems to be instrumental in shaping its narrative and vice versa. Tiwari’s recent viral video interview featuring an elderly Muslim man from Nuh has sparked controversy due to her aggressive line of questioning and perceived insinuations of criminality. In the interview, she appears to suggest that the Muslim community is responsible for acts of violence and tries to implicate the elderly man in these alleged incidents. The video drew attention due to her persistent questioning even when the man stated he was unwell and had no idea about what she was talking about.

Tiwari’s Twitter activity also caught attention. Although her account dates back to 2016, the majority of her tweets appear to be from August 2023, showcasing congratulatory messages from right-wing and BJP supporters.

The affiliations of other ‘Rajdharma’ employees further raise further questions about the channel’s credibility. Prabhat Ranjan Mishra, a self-claimed “reporter and anchor”, and Ashwini Choubey, labelled as a ‘Content Writer,’ at Rajdharma.

A quintessential example of ‘Rajdharma’s’ political inclinations can be seen in an interview conducted by Tiwari with Ajay Bisht aka Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, in 2022. The interview merely a ten minute chat and is notably flamboyant and easy going in its questioning and avoids any critical inquiries, focusing instead on praising the political leadership and policies in place in the state of Uttar Pradesh (UP).

The programme “Sirf teen sawalon yeh CM Yogi ka interview” or “CM Yogi’s interview only in three questions,” for instance. The style, formatting and the dialogues can even fulfil all the pre-requisite of a scripted advertisement; the resemblance is uncanny. The first question, for instance, is the manner in which Tiwari asks just how has the CM made UP so safe for woman, as opposed to the atmosphere of fear they lived in 6 years earlier to which the CM replies with a smile asserting the “necessity for women’s safety”. There is no mention of gruesome incidents of rape and violence Dalits and Muslim women in the state, nor even of the stark case of Hathras, where a Dalit girl was brutally raped and left for dead, which shook the country in September 2020. As of today August 17th 2023, this video has almost a million views.

Yogi Adityanath has been featured in quite a few videos by Rajdharma. According to the Caravan Magazine, it was the minister’s PR agency that arranged for the video segments with YouTube content creators like Rajdharma and others.

The views on the YouTube channel range from 20,000 to 2 million. What is noteworthy is this particularly genre of videos the YouTube Channel produces in which working class, often elderly, Muslims are captured on camera as the Youtuber, often Archana Tiwari, aggressively asks hostile and provocative questions. The channel then twists the answers of the interviewees, no matter how harmless they may be, into a sensationalist headline.

For instance, one YouTube video featured an old Muslim man who is asked of the demolitions in going on in Nuh. He replies that these constitute a harrowing attack on Muslims. Tiwari goes on to repeatedly ask him if he is afraid of Yogi Adityanath, even though he is the CM of another state. The man states in the affirmative. Tiwari pounces on to that, in a triumphalist vein, and goes on to repeat the man’s fear-filled reply with much glee and aplomb, seemingly marvelling at how the fear of this chief minister pervades populations (Muslim) in other states as well. This can hardly qualify as journalism or reporting.

Furthermore, this video has about 2 million views. One of the highest viewer counts on the channel. Higher even than the current view count of the Yogi Adityanath interviews, which stands at a modest 9.3 lakh in comparison.  In fact, this pattern exists for most of the videos which show Muslims being humiliated or aggressively accused by the YouTube present on the field.

Amongst these interviews, the channel also features content on topics such as the building of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. Several videos ranging in topics which include headlines on Rahul Gandhi, Asaduddin Owaisi. Headlines such as “Bhumi Pujan ko sunkar aap ki aankhein bhar aayengi” (Your eyes will well up with tears once you listen to this Bhumi Pujan), feature in the channel, which additionally also has an entire series of videos dedicated to the Sushant Singh Rajput controversy, titled “Justice for Sushant Singh Rajput”.

The Sushant Singh Rajput controversy occurred when the actor reportedly killed himself in June 2020, at which time the right wing engaged in a massive online campaign asserting that his death was a “conspiracy”. Available video and text content on this YouTube channel really itself makes the argument that this YouTube channel is the part of an industry that engaged in content creation that markets “news as entertainment”. However the content orientation is being increasingly consumed as a substitute for journalism and reportage which marks a concerning challenge for the future of journalism in India as the government increases curbs on the freedom of an autonomous and independent media, while allowing with impunity, hate content of this kind, across mediums.



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