Indian YouTuber Sumit Verma recently courted trouble after his "kissing prank" video- where he is seen kissing unsuspecting women before fleeing- was widely slammed on social media. The police had taken cognisance and are now looking at options to open a case.
The video came to light right after the Bengaluru mass molestation incident on New Year's eve. The development has sparked off debates over the matters of consent, sexual violence and respecting women, like never before. With people from all quarters lambasting the video, International Business Times, India wanted to know what fellow YouTubers think about the 'prank'.
One of the notable YouTube celebrity, Rickshawali — whose real name is Anisha — reacted to the video. Anisha gave IBTimes, India, her honest opinion about Verma's 'prank'.
Anisha has over 200 YouTube videos and more than 210,000 subscribers for her channel. She is followed by more than 6,000 people on Twitter and over 30,000 Instagram users.
IBT: Given that an YouTuber's income is linked to their videos, how far is too far when you do something for just "entertainment"? Case in point, Sumit Verma saying that he kissed women just for entertainment.
Anisha: The moment you cross someone else's space or privacy without their consent or agreement is definitely too far in general, and not just in entertainment, in my opinion. YouTube gives you freedom to create your own videos with your own creativity and power! You don't have to depend on anyone and you are your own boss! Sadly many misuse this and fall prey to the so-called "wanting to get famous at any cost!" And, that is where they falter and start making videos which will get more traffic and people's intrigue to click on it which sadly is through sexual topics.
Since these are taboo topics and you can't speak openly about this with everyone, people want to watch it even more. And because of the sheer number of views, someone like Sumit will keep making such type of videos to get more attention to grow their channel and fame! Sadly, there are way too many of them now making only this type of content and earning money with it as well.
IBT: At a time when India is trying to shed its violence against women image, do you think Sumit Verma should surrender himself to the police?
A: I don't think Sumit did what he did to molest women, to be honest. I think, many of these pranksters fall into the trap of making more daring and dangerous content to get the views online. And because of that, Sumit thought kissing girls and running away will get him views, which it did! I think Sumit's timing with the video was highly inappropriate, especially right after the Bangalore molestation. To be honest, I have seen worse sexual videos by Indian Pranksters way before Sumit's video.
The bigger problem is that, young boys like him are not being taught to respect women by their family or teachers! And I think at some level their teachers or parents have failed them. That is why some of these pranksters think it is "ok" to do such a thing. So yes, there is some serious education required in terms of respecting women and it starts at home. Unless that doesn't happen, how will these men understand how to treat women.
IBT: As an entertainer, do you support or condemn Verma's videos?
A: I 100 percent condemn. I know there is a lot of pressure to grow your channel and get more subscribers and views, but that is happening at the cost of others! In fact, I made a video on my channel a few days back where I openly condemn not only Sumit's video, but all these other pranksters who are making sexual videos! And if you go to the comment section, it has affected a lot of people and most of them agree with me.
IBT: How do you think YouTube stars like yourself can help creating awareness about sexual violence?
A: I am creating awareness through my videos in my own little way. As a matter of fact, I released a video in which I talk about reasons why girls get blamed for rape and molestation and I have done it in my own signature style.
Apart from that, we as creators with certain amount of influence strive to educate and spread awareness because we are lucky enough to have the power and tools to do it and our audience is willing to listen.
And as YouTube creators, we are very different from Bollywood. And as you know, Bollywood movies have a history of spreading a wrong message about women. Luckily for us, we have a new generation of audience watching our content and we have a far important role to play in creating awareness compared to our Bollywood counterparts. So as a new breed of creators, if we create the same kind of content as Bollywood, then what is the point. It is our duty to be honest and be more grounded and show the reality.
IBT: What would you like to say to future YouTubers?
A: Make content that you feel strongly about and that you would be proud of making it even if you look back 5 years from now. You have everything you need in the palm of your hands and with the endless internet at your fingertips! And there is always a place for you if you have something interesting to say, then keep making videos! And don't forget to challenge yourself and also make sure every morning when you wake up, ask yourself, have i subscribed to Rickshawali or not!
She was not the only one who took offence to the video by the "prankster".
Every perverted creep that victimizes women must be thrown in jail.— The Indian Interest (@IndianInterest) January 8, 2017
The menace will end if cops take action.https://t.co/ErxlYj62Jc
Meet Sumit Verma. He goes around kissing women on the roads randomly & calls it 'prank'. Will someone arrest him? https://t.co/hcbHOf1Uwo— Rahul Sharma (@Biorahul) January 7, 2017
"For all the offences mentioned, he should ideally be imprisoned for at least 3 years. And no, sorry doesn't suffice. This is a crime and not a joke," said another user.