CHENNAI: The Chennai Police on Monday arrested a right-wing YouTuber S Karthik Gopinath on charges of swindling at least Rs 40 lakh which he crowdfunded for renovating temple statues.
S Karthik Gopinath, 32, a resident of Muthapudupet, is a YouTuber known for videos criticizing the DMK government. He runs a YouTube channel named 'Ilaya Bharatham' with 2.08 lakh subscribers.
Based on a complaint from T Aravindhan, Executive Officer of Arulmigu Madhura Kaliamman Thirukoil in Siruvachur, the Avadi Cybercrime cell registered a case under IPC section 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and IT Act section 66 (D) (cheating by personation by using computer resource). He was arrested and remanded in judicial custody on Monday.
“He asked the public to donate money through the Milaap fundraiser site in the guise of renovation of the statues of sub-temples of Arulmigu Mathura Kaliamman Temple without getting any permission from HR&CE Department and he wrongfully used this amount for his own purpose,” said a senior police officer.
His arrest sparked heated conversations on social media as BJP state president K Annamalai and party leader H Raja condemned the arrest and said they would stand with ‘nationalist YouTubers and support them legally’. In his tweets, Annamalai said South Chennai Addl Commissioner Kannan was transferred and kept on the reserve list ‘allegedly’ because of his closeness to him in facilitating passes. "When nationalist you tuber @karthikgnath is arrested today, it is because he has taken few pictures with me. Request TN Int PSY - OPS (Psychological Operations) division & DMK propaganda forces to leave all these innocents alone & come straight for me. I’m waiting as a common man!"
Seven months ago, Gopinath posted a video with pictures claiming, that several statues in Arulmigu Mathura Kaliamman Temple and of the sub-temples in Perambalur district were damaged and that he needs Rs 36 lakh to renovate. He also provided a link to the Milaap fundraiser site for donors to contribute.
A month ago on February 31, in a video to provide an update on the funds, Gopinath said, the funds would be used to renovate and rebuild at least 20 statues. “We have sent a formal letter to the Commissioner of HR&CE. But since it is a time-consuming process, we have moved the fund through other sources to the Padma Shri famed sculptor V K Munusamy who would build the broken statues,” Gopinath said in the video.