A stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested in Indore, Madhya Pradesh for passing derogatory remarks on Hindu deities, except there is no video evidence of these remarks.
The comedy show being held at a cafe in 56 Dukan area of the city was a ruckus last Friday when a group of people led by Aklavya Singh Gaur, son of local BJP MLA Malini Laxman Singh Gaur, entered the venue with his associates and interrupted the show.
What followed is a nightmare for all comedians.
"... objectionable talks were going on during the comedy show. We made a video of them and stopped the show by taking the audience out of the cafe. Then we caught the comedians and organisers of the show and took them to Tukoganj police station," Gaur said.
Where is the video, one may ask, well the police doesn't have one. Yet, Munawar and others were booked under Sections 295-A, 298, 269, 188 & 34 of the IPC.
"We have examined two video footages given by the complainant. Nothing has been found to be malicious in the same," Tukojigang police station SHO Kamlesh Sharma told the media.
Yet, Munawar has been behind bars for the last 3 days.
The comedian's show was stopped and he was dragged and thrashed by a mob who claimed he made derogatory remarks against Hindu deities. Many of those who attended the show said that the comedian made no objectionable remarks against Home Minister Amit Shah or Hindu deities.
Moral Policing Much?
What seems like an attempt to punish those hurting religious sentiments, appears to be a pre-planned attempt to harass a comedian upon close scrutiny.
"The show mocked Hindu deities by passing indecent comments. The Godhra incident and Shah were also mentioned inappropriately. We shot a video and stopped the show by taking the audience out of the cafe," Gaur claimed.
Gaur said that they were aware of Munawar's show that very day and identified him as a serial offender who insults gods and goddesses.
When The Logical Indian analysed the video of the exchange that took place on January 1, at the said venue, here is what we found.
According to eyewitness accounts, a group of people had accompanied Gaur. While others remained with the audience, Gaur took to the stage and addressed the audience.
"Ye Munawar Faruqui hai, ye shows karta hai, humare devi devtaon ka mazaaq udata hai aur tum log paise deke iska show dekhne aate ho, tumhe sharam nahi aati?"
The audience responded to Gaur. "We told him that we came to listen to Munawar and not him. We didn't pay money to listen to you," one of them said.
When a scuffle between the audience and Gaur escalated, Munawar stepped in. One of the audience members said, "He was polite. He calmed the audience down first. He promised us a good show and told us 'Baith jaiye."
"Main kisi ko target nahi karta hoon, sir. Mere jokes hain islam pe bhi, mere jokes hain triple talaq pe. Main lekin ye nahi keh raha ki main kisi bhi dharm ka mazaaq uda sakta hoon," Munawar said.
"Aapne apne "Mohammad" par kuch bola hai?," Gaur asked.
As per the first account of the onlookers, the MLA's son along with his associates took to the stage during the act, dragged the comedian and his aides to the police station.
The goons with 'political connections' did not call the police, rather, took it upon themselves to punish the comedian for what they thought to be controversial remarks.
The crucial question here is, What gave Gaur the authority to act on behalf of the state machinery?
Aklavya who identifies himself as a social worker and runs a Hindu outfit Hindu Rakshak, was able to shut down a show, manhandle Munawar and get away with it?
Indore Police- Equal Offender?
The role of the Indore Police has also been questioned as it failed to perform its duty. The protectors let the goons take control of the situation and harass the comedian.
While Munawar is behind bars, Gaur and his associates continue to roam free.
The police arrested Munawar when there was no evidence against him. Even after realising that the comedian has not committed any offence, the police have still not released him.
In this case, many believe that police overreached in their attempt to please a political outfit since the complainant was the son of a BJP MLA.
Have Indians Got No Chill?
Several netizens were also offended as Munawar had allegedly made "objectionable remarks" against Home Minister Amit Shah and Hindu gods and goddesses. The clip was found to be offensive by many but funny by the others. But does that constitute an offence as per law?
The IPC section 259A protects the rights of those who want a constitutional remedy for speeches and actions that hurt religious sentiments, but the application lies strictly with the police machinery.
Needless to say, netizens and comedians have rallied behind Munawar. In a separate hashtag that trended on Twitter #FreeMunawar as citizens asked for his release.
Netizens and stand up comedians have questioned the attempt to control humour by the government, state machinery and also those who have a different definition on it.
Munawar is not the only comedian to be arrested for his views or his work. Others, who have been critical of the government or a certain religion, have also come under the scanner. Comedian Kunal Kamra, cartoonist Rachita Taneja and many others were given contempt of court notices by the court for "scandalising the judiciary" with their jokes and cartoons.