A bright chapter in the book of Indian stand-up comedy is almost over today, all thanks to the stick–in-the-mud ideology of the ruling government, running-false-narratives, mainstream media and can’t handle-the-disturbance Bengaluru police.
Comedian Munawar Faruqui's show, 'Dongri to Nowhere', scheduled for November 28 at Good Shepherd auditorium in Bengaluru, was cancelled in the midst of threats ,on Sunday, apparently from right-wing groups for the jokes that he was ‘going to crack’. In response, the comedian issued a statement in which he said this was the twelfth show that had to be cancelled due to threats in two months. The comedian issued a response in which he said, "I think this is the end. I'm done."
It is not the first time that this new age comic like Faruqui, who is no less than the torchbearer of stand-up comedy activism, has been targeted by the right wing protestors. Is this the India that we want? If we need to be constantly guided to eat that, marry that, say that - why does the government not go ahead and issue guidelines, maybe a new section or article where they tell us clearly not to comment on anything going wrong in the country , especially government policies . They will have apparently lot less FIRs to register and fewer UAPA cases to deal with.
Earlier this year, Munawar Faruqui spent more than a month in jail after some groups were offended by remarks he didn’t even make during his show. Hindutva groups have constantly targeted Faruqui since he was arrested in January in Madhya Pradesh’s Indore city based on a complaint filed by the son of a Bharatiya Janata Party politician. The petitioner had alleged that the comedian ‘was going to’ make objectionable statements about Hindu deities at his show. It did not matter that Faruqui had not made any statement that involved Hindu gods. However, people at the club where Faruqui was scheduled to perform had said that the police detained him before he had even begun his show.
This is a classic case of nothing made out of manipulated things. Imagine, the Judiciary hasn’t found anything wrong or controversial about this person and yet he is barred to ply his trade. He has been deprived of his right to earn a livelihood, that too in a scenario when ‘Berozgari’ is at its all-time high. Technically this should be challenged as suppression of his right to earn a livelihood but this is the India where increasing political influence has a reach beyond political realms.
Let’s not forget to applause and applaud the brave Bengaluru police for accepting that they are incapable of handling a problem situation that might have arisen because of a 29 year old ‘Controversial figure’ , as termed by them. Definitely gives us a lot of confidence in the security system and apparatus of our country. So much for our credence in the police that openly admitted to being incapable of managing some disturbance could have occurred because an artist was going to perform.
Comedians are as important as doctors because laughter is the best medicine. The overbearing need of being politically correct is unmistakably targeting a set of people that made a career out of making people laugh. With Vir Das, Munawar Faruqi, Agrima Joshua, Kunal Kamra and several others under the watchful eye of self-proclaimed religious protectors, comedy seems to be the flavour of the season.
When comedian Kunal Kamra had allegedly heckled journalist Arnab Goswami on board an IndiGo airline flight from Mumbai to Lucknow, he was grounded by the airline. Air India and SpiceJet too had followed suit. When Kamra and cartoonist Rachita Taneja tweeted on the apex court, a contempt of court proceedings was initiated against them.
Recently Comic Vir Das's viral "I come from two Indias" monologue at Washington's Kennedy Centre, furiously debated on social media, provoked a police complaint in Delhi by a BJP leader. Aditya Jha, a spokesperson of the Delhi BJP, filed a complaint accusing Vir Das of vilifying the nation on foreign soil.
Across India, there are clear signs that freedom of speech is being systematically attacked. A database published by the website Article 14 showed that of the 405 cases filed for criticizing politicians and governments over the last decade, 96% were registered after 2014, when India got actual freedom if we believe Kangana Ranaut . One hundred and forty-nine people have been accused of making “critical” and/or “derogatory” remarks against the prime minister.
In early February police in two BJP-ruled states introduced further anti free speech measures. In Uttrakhand, the police announced that they will be monitoring social media and that anyone found to be “anti-national” or “anti-social” “must be prepared for dire consequences.” In Bihar, the police said that protesters may not be eligible for government jobs, bank loans and passports. And in Kashmir, India’s only Muslim majority region, which is administered from the national capital, the police invited volunteers or “content flaggers” from the public to help them monitor online activity.
Munawar Faruqui is the face of the Middle Class Indian dream. An instance of how a young man, beating all economic –financial odds and negative discourses about his religion , achieved his ambition and skill. Today the same stand-up comic remains the face of his country—a place where dreams can quickly turn into nightmares.
There has been a growing intolerance against comedians who, through their satires and stage performances, are attempting to hold the government accountable. The government and its supporters, however, have not taken the joke well and have resorted to what it does the best – register cases.