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Bengaluru Batman fights bribes, writes FIRs, calls NGOs. Broseph on Reddit is Mr Fixit

Dushyant Dubey has built a strong network of friends, police, politicians, and NGOs. And he is using it to help Reddit users with a problem.

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If Bengaluru was Gotham, Dushyant Dubey would be Batman — at least according to those on the ‘Bengaluru subreddit’, the forum on Reddit dedicated to the city. Better known by his username on the platform, St Broseph, Dubey has made a name for himself by being the go-to “contact” for anyone on the platform with a problem.

“I’ve always been a ‘Broseph’ to all my friends. If anyone needs any help in my extended circle, they come to me,” Dubey said. On 11 December last year, he put up a post on Reddit, titled: Let me be your “contact” for when cops/rowdies/anyone harasses you in Bangalore.

It is one of the most upvoted and awarded (Reddit’s equivalents of a like) posts on the sub. Help from him comes in many forms — advice, emotional support, the right connections, and sometimes money. But how does this one-man army do it and why?

Bengaluru’s ‘contact’

Unlike Bruce Wayne, Dubey isn’t a billionaire. A marketing manager at Mahindra, Dubey moved to Bengaluru six years ago and began building a network by attending events organised by local politicians and volunteering with NGOs and social workers.

“The first month I moved here, I found out about a political event. I went and asked the organisers if they needed help. And they did. I was asked to man the doors and guide the attendees,” Dubey said, adding that he made around 10 political contacts that day.

The event was organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). “I’ve attended events and helped people from across the political spectrum,” he said. “When I go to these events, I ask the politicians what I can do for them instead of asking for favours,” he said.

Dubey said his way of approaching politicians and officials makes them more willing to assist him when the need arises.

That’s how he was introduced to the former police commissioner of Bengaluru, Bhaskar Rao, who recently joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Dubey credits Rao for empowering him through the citizen outreach programmes that the latter organised during his tenure as commissioner.

Today, Dubey has a strong network of friends, police, politicians, and NGOs whose help he seeks from time to time whenever Reddit users approach him.

He does not have access to every DCP in the city, and this is where his network comes in handy. “I ask people if they are connected to the DCP in their area and to speak to the police and put in a good word regarding the case,” he said.

Then he asks the person who has reached out to him to visit the station and explain their case. If the DCP is of no help, then the next step is to go to the police commissioner. “But it has never come to that,” he said.

Also read: The GameStop story — how a group of investors on Reddit gave Wall Street a wild week

What he does, and how

There is a daily barrage of posts on the Reddit forum, which include news articles, pet adoption requests, musings on start-up culture, dating advice, and questions like where can one find Kannada books and best cafes. The page also receives stories of harassment by the Bengaluru Police and exorbitant bribes users have had to pay. And when the Reddit community can’t help, ‘Mr Fix-it’ comes to the rescue.

“Nowadays whenever I see a post explaining someone facing an issue, I expect this man’s words to already be there on the top (sic),” a user commented under a post thanking St_Broseph.

Dubey says the kind of issues he deals with requires him, among other things, to help people write FIRs. “We get on a video call and I guide them through the process,” he said, recalling a recent case of eve-teasing where he helped the woman add Google Maps views of the location she was harassed at.

Dubey’s friend Sameer K helps him communicate with the police and others who speak in Kannada.“He’s passionate about his work and won’t hesitate to take up others’ problems like his own,” said Sameer, who met Dubey on Facebook four years ago and “bonded over our mutual inclination towards social work”.

With a two-monitor setup, Dubey does the social work from his 1BHK home in Indiranagar, where he lives alone. One wall has figurines of wrestlers, another has two huge posters of Chelsea football club and metal bands. But the largest space is dedicated to a poster of former defence minister and trade union activist George Fernandes. He is Dubey’s biggest inspiration, according to Sameer. “He told me he wants to be as accessible to the people as Fernandes was and wants to keep his doors open to anyone at all times,” Sameer said.

Dushyant Dubey’s two-monitor setup is his base of operations | Photo with special arrangement
A poster of former defence minister George Fernandes, Dubey’s inspiration, in the living room | Photo with special arrangement

Dubey gets around two to three ‘cases’ every day. “The number goes up on weekends as there are more police-related incidents,” Dubey said. He asks users to message him on WhatsApp. “It verifies their identity and having their number gives me some surety,” he said.

A Redditor who reached out to him for help with an unknown caller said Dubey found out the location and other details of the harasser. “He guided me through filing a complaint, told me which station to go to, what complaint to file, and even read a draft of it,” the woman said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Dubey also helps people write college applications, or find a flat by suggesting online forums. He also sometimes guides people in need of therapy and has extended time to those going through suicidal thoughts. “Sometimes people just want someone who will listen,” he said. Apart from personal matters, he’s also “nudged” the local municipal body to fix faulty street lights “within three hours” without any bribes being paid, according to a Reddit user.

Also read: Reddit posts show that anxiety, talk of suicide spiked among users when Covid first hit

Turning point

Dubey’s father Rajesh said his son has been this way ever since he witnessed a suicide online in 2008. Dubey was 16 years old then.

A teenager in Florida, US, had announced in a blog post he would be live-streaming his suicide. Most people in the comments section had reportedly “egged him on”. Dubey said by the time he saw it, the teenager was lying on his bed and appeared lifeless. “The chat section was filled with people egging him on,” recalled Dubey, now 31. He says he contacted the local police in Florida to get them to intervene. By the time help arrived, the teenager had died. Dubey said it opened his eyes to how issues behind the screen are generally viewed by society.

“People are completely detached from what happens behind a screen. It’s not real. It has no real consequences,” he said.

Dubey has brought that experience into helping people dealing with the trauma of harassment and abuse. He once helped two sisters who had run away from their home to escape their “abusive mother”. He said he accompanied the sisters to the police station. “I also talked to the mother and tried to appease her. You never know what connections she has and I didn’t want the matter to be escalated,” he said.

He also soon realised he would need guidance from experts.

“I reached out to therapists I knew and they sensitised me on issues like consent to tone when talking with people who are stressed,” he said, adding he consciously avoids using phrases such as ‘consider me like your brother’.

One of those contacts is Aishwarya, an MPhil psychology trainee at NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences), Bengaluru.

“He told me about the cases he comes across and asked how he can better help them,” Aishwarya said. She now advises him often, including recently when a man who was “hearing voices” approached Dubey. “I advised him how best to talk to him and also directed him to the right doctors,” she said.

Aishwarya is all praise for Dubey and said people like him play a key role in destigmatising mental health. “His on-ground community-level approach is something we clinicians also need to emulate,” she said.

Also read: Activism may be a dirty word in Modi’s India, but it still works. Here are 3 recent examples

Being Broseph

Dubey said he was “raised” by the internet. He was interested in computers from a young age and became “active” online when he was only six years old. He left regular school in Class 9 and finished his schooling and graduation through distance learning so that he’s not “left out on paper”.

He started small, by helping his social circle. When he was living in Ahmedabad, he was organising metal concerts and managing indie bands — all for free.

When asked why he chose Reddit as the platform for his alter ego, he said he liked the website’s penchant for anonymity. “People are more open to sharing what has happened to them because there is no identifying information,” he said.

He also said he sets aside Rs 25,000 a month “to spend on helping”, such as for people’s therapy, medical bills or help with payment of fines. Over the past year, he said he has also helped people in abusive situations or those who have been kicked out of their homes.

While Dubey does not have enough space to open his home up to people, he has just paid a deposit for a small apartment that he plans to use as a safe house.

Rajesh Dubey said that his son is not money-minded at all. “He doesn’t save for himself. It’s a problem,” he said.

His father is proud of him but wants him to concentrate on himself as well. “When I try to talk to him, he tells me that there is more value in building a network. He says, ‘who knows if the kid I help today becomes an executive tomorrow. They’ll remember my help’,” Rajesh said. “As a businessman and even as a father, his actions are difficult for me to comprehend,” he added, laughing.

Dubey is currently working on a customer relationship management (CRM)-enabled website to keep up with the requests for help. The website, he said, would allow people to track the status. Dubey then posted his plan on Reddit, and received messages from users offering money to  web developers saying they would build the site for free.

Some Redditors also urge him to join politics. When a user pointed out that it would cost Rs 5 crore “just to get a ticket” to contest an election, another user replied saying “We’ll crowdfund. Better than paying taxes, we pay for our batman”.

But Dubey does not want to be associated with any political party. “If I say I’m a part of one organisation or support a certain ideology, people will be reluctant to help or reach out for help,” he said.

“I like being just ‘Broseph’ — it’s neutral and personal,” he said.

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