Government Directive Closes YouTube Channels Serving Dalit, Backward Communities, Notice Omits Reasons

The notice received from YouTube on the direction of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, to Bolta Hindustan and National Dastak does not clearly mention the reason for shutting down their channels, or which video content led to this action.
Government Directive Closes YouTube Channels Serving Dalit, Backward Communities, Notice Omits Reasons

New Delhi- In a concerning turn of events, alternative media channels across the country, predominantly focused on issues concerning Dalits, backward, tribal, and marginalized communities, have received notices regarding shut down of their YouTube channels. This crackdown began at the onset of April, with one channel already facing closure and others potentially following suit.

On the night of April 3rd and 4th, the "Bolta Hindustan" YouTube channel received a notification via email, stating its removal in accordance with the guidelines of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB). Bolta Hindustan, with a substantial subscriber base of 297,891, has been a vocal platform, consistently raising questions on matters of public interest.

Speaking to The Mooknayak, Samar Raj, editor of Bolta Hindustan, expressed dismay over the channel's removal, highlighting the lack of communication from YouTube regarding technical issues or guideline violations. Instead, Raj emphasized that the government's directive seemed aimed at silencing dissenting voices rather than addressing any legitimate concerns.

In the past three years, significant rulings by both the High Court and the Supreme Court have targeted certain channels, alleging that their debates propagate hatred and contribute to a volatile environment conducive to riots. Despite these rulings, no tangible action has been taken against any channel. Surprisingly, even Bolta Hindustan, which has not faced any legal repercussions or FIRs, has now become a target.

Samar elaborates on their content, stating, "We publish content that directly questions the government. However, despite our efforts, we remain uncertain about which specific content has prompted these actions."

He further speculates on the motives behind the recent crackdown, suggesting, "Given our recent focus on electoral bonds, if the government perceives this as an affront, it underscores the precariousness of our situation."

Similarly, National Dastak's YouTube channel received a notice on April 3rd, though presently it continues to operate without hindrance.

The National Dastak YouTube channel, launched on September 16, 2015, boasts a staggering 9.41 million subscribers. In terms of subscriber count, it stands as the No. 1 Bahujan platform in the nation, amplifying the voices of Dalits, tribals, backward classes, women, farmers, minorities, and the marginalized.

"Do you think that such a notice was issued because of any content?"

When asked by The Mooknayak, National Dastak's Editor-in-Chief, Shambhu Kumar Singh, stated that YouTube did not inform them of any specific wrong content or video violations. They were only informed by YouTube that they had received guidelines from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to remove their channel.

"National Dastak raises the voice of the Dalits, backward, and marginalized people of the country. We report on their issues. The government has a problem with this," said Shambhu Kumar Singh.

Amidst the closure of YouTube channels advocating for marginalized groups, another concerning development involves a notice received by the YouTube channel of "Article 19 India," an online media group dedicated to democratic values and social justice. With 2.8 million subscribers, Article 19 India strives to uphold principles of justice, equality, and freedom.

When contacted by The Mooknayak, Naveen Kumar, the founder of Article 19 India, acknowledged receiving notice emails for the channel. However, he refrained from divulging the contents of the emails, although he did mention the recent shutdown of Article 19 India's Facebook page by Meta.

The reason for the action is not clearly mentioned in the notice.

The YouTube notice received on National Dastak’s email stated, “We have received a notice from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) directing us to block your channel URL UC7IdArS3MibBKFsqckq8GhQ in accordance with Section 654 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 read with Rule 15(2) of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021. The notice itself is confidential so we are unable to share it with you at this time. MIB is likely to pass a final order in respect of the above URL shortly. You may provide any feedback regarding the legality of your above content to MIB at As per our obligations to comply with local laws, we may comply with such an order without any prior notice.”

It is clear from this email that YouTube can shut down any YouTube channel (which operates in India) on the instructions of the government without any prior notice.

It is to be noted that Rule 2 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, states that intermediaries (social media platforms) must ensure that users do not use their platform to share or disseminate content that violates the rules.

-Translated by Geetha Sunil Pillai

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