Standup comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested by Indore Police on Friday, December 1, for allegedly insulting and making indecent remarks against Hindu deities and Union Home Minister Amit Shah during a New Year show.
Four other individuals who were arrested include Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas, Nalin Yadav, and event coordinator Edwin Anthony, The Indian Express reported. They were allegedly beaten up by a Hindutva mob before the arrest, however, no action has been initiated against the mob.
Two days after their arrest, a woman claiming to be part of the audience took to Instagram and claimed that no derogatory remarks were made by Faruqui during the show. A police officer also said there was no video evidence showing the comedian making objectionable remarks.
Another individual, identified as Jenosha Agnes, who claimed to be a member of the audience wrote on Instagram, "As Munawar arrived on the stage, few people with political connections rushed to the stage, snatched the mic and began saying 'hamare religious sentiments hurt hue hai… Godhra kand per joke kiya… Hamare devi devta ka mazak udaya… Islam pe joke q nahi karta hai."
"No derogatory remarks were made by Munawar Faruqui at the Indore show," she said.
The Indore Police arrested Faruqui and four others based on a complaint from Eklavya Gaur, son of Indore-4 BJP MLA Malini Gaur. "He is serial offender and often cracks defamatory jokes on Hindu gods and goddesses," Gaur had said.
"When I heard about Munawar's show, I bought a ticket and went to see it. As expected, he was insulting Hindu deities and also mocked Home Minister Amit Shah by dragging his name with Godhra riots," he said.
Subsequently, Gaur and his associates stopped the show and brought the comedians to Tukaganj Police Station and submitted videos of the show. However, Town Inspector of Tukaganj Police Station Kamlesh Sharma said that the two videos submitted by the complainant are of another comedian.
The police have registered an FIR against Faruqui and four others under Sections 295-A, 298, 269, 188 & 34 of the IPC.
Soon after the news surfaced, several comedians, including Varun Grover, Vir Das, Kaneez Surkha, Agrima Joshua and Rohan Joshi, took to social media in support of Faruqui.
Grover took to Instagram and alleged that Faruqui was assaulted and wrote, "A fellow Indian, a fellow comedian is in jail and got beaten up by a mob because of the words he uttered. Here he's trying to logically, calmly present his case but our systems now just want to brutally silence every voice… They don't want to hear, they don't want to even argue — they want to simply erase every shred of individual thought, every iota of reason."
Vir Das tweeted that "who has ever tried to control humour, now has a category of jokes devoted to them". "You can't stop jokes and laughter. Not because comedians are performing it, but because people need to laugh. Harder you try, the more you're going to be laughed at, now, and by history."
Several netizens took to Twitter reacting to the incident. Many questioned if Faruqui was arrested for his jokes or for being a Muslim, while others criticised the "intolerance" in India.