DMK‘s Attempt To Muzzle Activist Maridhas Is Deeply Troubling. It Has A Long History Of Intimidating Its Media Critics.
Maridhas is a young, independent voice on Tamil social media whose videos on YouTube have been garnering significant attention of late.
Maridhas, who initially took to Facebook to counter what he calls as malicious an misleading campaigns against the Centre, has long argued that criticism against any administration should be based on facts, data, and statistics.
He has been particularly critical of the various Tamil nationalist and separatist elements who have sought to keep the state permanently on the boil.
His videos on YouTube – hosted on a channel called Maridhas Answers – frequently garners views upwards of a lakh.
Maridhas also runs a Facebook page. The hallmark of his videos and posts are the extensive coverage of facts, with independent verification through information in the public domain.
This is in sharp contrast to the type of investigative journalism pursued in Tamil mainstream media, notably weeklies like Junior Vikatan and Nakkeeran, which have sections devoted to gossip and innuendo about the personal peccadilloes of celebrities and politicians.
Even political news is often camouflaged with unsubstantiated rumours.
In this environment, Maridhas’ calm reasoning, submission of facts and logic have come as a breath of fresh air. His videos and Facebook posts are sought after by the social media-savvy younger generation.
However, this has brought eyeballs to his content as well as the ire of the politicians.
Encouraged by the success, Maridhas has taken on the powerful Opposition party, the DMK (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam).
With a 70-year legacy, many years of experience gathered through long stints in the government, both in the state and in the centre, large business interests such as the Sun media empire, healthcare and education businesses, 100 MLAs and 38 MPs of their alliance currently in the Parliament, this is truly a formidable entity to stand up to.
The party has a long history of intimidating its opponents in the media. In fact, in their internecine warfare, three members of the media were burnt alive, in Maridhas’ own city, Madurai by party functionaries.
In March, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court today awarded life sentences to nine DMK functionaries including ‘Attack’ Pandi, for setting ablaze ‘Dinakaran’ newspaper office in 2007 and killing three employees.
Maridhas has also faced such threats on social media.
This tweet, which was subsequently deleted, issues a subtle threat – ‘why complain to the police, just find out when he goes walking,’ – it says.
This tweet is undoubtedly a reference to the murder of a party functionary, Kiruttinan in Madurai.
In this context, a complaint has been filed, against Maridhas, with the Commissioner of Police in Chennai, by one Rajya Sabha MP and DMK’s organization secretary, R S Bharathi.
Bharathi, who is also a lawyer by profession, has called for criminal prosecution of Maridhas under Section 505(2) – publication of statements intended to create ill-will against a group of people – and for deletion of Maridhas’ Facebook page and YouTube channel under the Information Technology Act.
The DMK is portraying Maridhas’ statements in favour of the recent abrogation of Article 370 as a hate speech against Muslims.
In a Facebook post published him, Maridhas said he will not be intimidated by DMK’s tactics and continue doing his duty.