The police’s version of events is different from that of the woman who appears in the viral video. The YouTubers have been accused of public obscenity and sexual harassment.

Man on left interviews woman
news Media Wednesday, January 13, 2021 - 08:11

The Greater Chennai police arrested three men running a Tamil YouTube channel after a video of theirs featuring a woman talking openly about sex, drinking etc went viral. The Tamil YouTube channel ‘Chennai Talks’ contains over 200 videos, most of which are in the vox-pop format: The host interviews several people on various topics and these interviews are edited together. According to reports, many of these videos had people – including several women – explicitly talking about sex, sexuality, drinking and relationships.

The Shastri Nagar police claim that they visited the Besant Nagar beach where the videos were mostly shot, based on a tipoff, and questioned the men as they were holding a camera and a microphone. Police say they arrested Dinesh (31), the owner of the channel; VJ Asen Badshah (23); and cameraperson Ajay Babu (24), based on complaints from people. The charges against them are of public obscenity and sexual harassment.

“We received a tipoff from a fisherwoman at the beach that such videos were being shot there and people were being asked uncomfortable questions. Based on this tipoff, Shastri Nagar Sub Inspector Murugan and Inspector Shanmugasundaram went to the beach where they found the men with microphones and camera. When they were questioned, two of the men said that it was a prank show and even abused the public who tried to intervene,” an officer from the Shastri Nagar PS told TNM.

Police say the YouTubers have taken people they know to Elliot's beach in Besant Nagar and made them talk on camera, though it is unclear what is illegal about doing that. They have also requested women who are passersby to give bytes for their channel. When the women start talking, they are also ‘encouraged to reveal details about their personal life’, the police said.

However, the woman in the recently viral video, which has now been removed from the channel, has now stated that she had given a complaint against the YouTubers, after which the arrest seems to have happened. In the video, the woman has a light-hearted conversation with the host of Chennai Talks about sex, drinking, lockdown, COVID-19 etc. She faced harassment from viewers as the video started going viral, with several people abusing her and slut-shaming her. This backlash, the woman has said, could have been avoided if the channel had disabled comments – which they allegedly promised her they would do, but didn’t. The woman also said she was paid Rs 1,500 for the shoot, and said that the video was scripted in order to make it go viral.

The YouTubers have been booked under sections 294(b) (sings recites utters any obscene song ballad or words in public), 354(b) (assault or use of criminal force to women with intent to disrobe), 509 (Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any words, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound), 506(ii) (criminal intimidation), and section 4 of Tamil Nadu prohibition of women harassment act (penalty for harassment to women). It is unclear why they’re being charged with sexual harassment.

The YouTubers’ equipment including a microphone, a camera and four smartphones have been confiscated by the police. The accused have now been remanded to judicial custody. Efforts are being taken to pull down the channel which has already received seven crore views on YouTube.

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