India’s stand up comedians are beginning to realize that they aren’t above the law.
Alleged stand up comedian Munawar Faruqui, who had been previously arrested after making remarks against Hindu gods at a show in Indore, has had his bail application rejected by a local court, and been sent to judicial custody. Faruqui, along with four others, has been booked under IPC sections 295-A (outraging religious feelings), 269 (unlawful or negligent act likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life) and other relevant provisions.
During arguments, Farooqui’s lawyer Anshuman Shrivastava said the FIR had been registered with a political motive, and cited the constitutional provisions of freedom of speech to defend the comedian. The lawyer opposing the bail petition said that the show was held without the administration’s permission, and it hurt religious feelings.
On Friday, Munawar Faruqui had been interrupted during a show in Indore’s Monroe cafe after he’d allegedly made fun of Hindu gods and goddesses. A crowd, which had been led by local leader Eklavya Goud, had then dragged him to a police station. Apart from the offensive remarks made by Faruqui, local leaders had alleged that the show had followed no social distancing norms, and children under the age of 18 were in the audience. The leaders say that they’ve submitted the video evidence to the police.
This isn’t the first time that Munawar Faqruqui has courted controversy. In a previous stand-up “comedy” bit, Faruqui had used the lyrics of popular Bollywood scores to mock Lord Rama over his 14 years of exile, and portrayed Sita as an insecure wife suspicious of her husband Lord Rama’s loyalty.
Munawar Faruqui had also “joked” about how the burnt train of the Godhra massacre, in which 59 Hindu pilgrims were killed, was “directed by Amit Shah” and “produced by RSS.”
In another video, Faruqui had joked about India losing Ladakh.
Munawar Faruqui has also previously compared making a mandir with making bombs.
It appears that it was these previous comedy bits, as well as whatever was said during the Indore show, that prompted members of a local group to protest, and lodge a police complaint.
If India had absolute freedom of speech, one could say that Munawar Faruqui was simply exercising his constitutional rights of free speech. But India has nothing even remotely resembling free speech. A few months ago, a man in Bengaluru was arrested for making a joke on the Prophet Muhammad. Sudarshan TV was also pre-emptively banned from hosting a program that simply pointed out the rising number of candidates from a particular community in the UPSC services. Yet for the longest time, there was no action against comedians, who under the garb of their freedom of speech, were mocking India’s territorial integrity, spreading patently fake news about communal massacres, and denigrating Hindu gods. With a police complaint now being filed against Munawar Faruqui, and he being sent to judicial custody, one would hope that India would be able to enforce its standards of freedom of speech, whatever they might be, in a manner that’s fair and equitable for all.