YouTuber and former Bigg Boss contestant ‘Hindustani Bhau’—whose real name is Vikas Fhatak—had his Instagram account suspended yesterday, after comedian Kunal Kamra drew attention to a video in which the YouTuber threatened violence against anyone who ‘abuses Hinduism’. Kamra had shared part of the expletive-laden video, which shows the YouTuber urging his viewers to assault comedians (and others) without regard to the legal consequences, and tagged Mumbai Police as well as Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh in the tweet.
“This is a mob building & hate spreading excercise,” wrote Kamra. “This is deeply alarming. Could lead to violence & an artist not getting due process. Remarks like “System side main” are an insult to our constitution…”
Hindustani Bhau rose to prominence thanks to his profanity-filled videos, often shot in a car, in which he rails against those he sees as “anti-national”. His catch-phrase “nikal la*de! Pehli fursat se nikal” has become a viral meme on the Indian internet, its popularity going well beyond his predominantly right-wing audience. In recent months, his targets have included comedians, Bollywood celebrities like Ekta Kapoor, Shah Rukh Khan fan accounts, and social media influencers from across the border.
Bhau, who had over 3 million followers on Instagram, has spawned a number of foul-mouthed imitators, including frequent collaborator Shubham Mishra who was arrested last month for making rape threats against comedian Agrima Joshua.
After Kamra tweeted about Bhau’s latest video, he took to Twitter to defend himself, claiming that the video had been edited. He also posted a recording on his YouTube channel of a supposed call with Kunal Kamra, in which the comedian asks him why he’s targeting comedians in his videos. Bhau’s defense is that comedians should not talk about his religion, and that they should also criticise other communities, a common refrain amongst right-wing social media users who accuse Indian comics of Hinduphobia.
Though his Instagram account is now suspended, Hindustani Bhau’s verified Facebook account as well as his YouTube channel are still up. In a final twist to the tale, former journalist and transparency activist Saket Gokhale claimed in a Twitter thread that Hindustani Bhau’s social media accounts are handled by a firm with strong links to the Bharatiya Janata Party.