The clampdown on freedom of speech continued with another show of comedian Munawar Faruqui being cancelled. The comedian took to his Instagram profile to express his anger and angst stating ‘hatred has won and an artist lost.’ He announced he is done with comedy. Moral support from the comedy fraternity and other artists has been pouring in.
Munawar Faruqui is a Bhopal based-comedian who got into trouble early this year. He was jailed for a month for a joke he did not even crack. He was apparently going to crack the joke when he went to perform in Indore, based on complaints against him for hurting ‘religious sentiments.’
In January, this year, he was arrested after some right-wing elements found his jokes problematic. He was accused of talking ill about Hindu deities. Following a month-long battle for bail and repeatedly being denied it for scandalous reasons, he was let go finally after thirty-three days in jail.
The comedian has ever since been in controversies. Faruqi and venues have been threatened and his shows have been cancelled following this. This is the twelfth show in the entire two months that has been cancelled after Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh Mumbai, and now Bangalore following suit.
The current show, Dongri to Nowhere, has been certified by the censor board and has the approval of the board. Yet, there are continuous uproars around performing the show. The show in Bengaluru was in collaboration with the late Puneeth Kumar’s trust. However, the show was cancelled.
This show has been cancelled by the Ashok Nagar police themselves citing him as a controversial figure and citing his show could lead to law and order problems in the city. They shared a letter, also mentioning the many FIRs against him, specifically one filed in Madhya Pradesh. At the beginning of this month, he cancelled his Goa shows as there were threats of self-immolation by people and strong opposition to the show by Hindu Janajagruti Samiti.
Earlier this month, comedian Vir Das faced the brunt of the right-wing after his viral video talking about the two extreme sides of India. FIRs were filed against the comedian and a call for cancelling his shows was prominent. Following this, Madhya Pradesh banned the comedian from performing in the state at all.
Comedian Kunal Kamra expressed his disappointment in his statement on Instagram saying, ‘With every passing year, I feel laughter is costing comedians more and more. It’s costing their spontaneity and it’s costing them impulse.’
Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi tweeted in support of the comedian saying, ‘Nafrat nahi jeetegi, vishwas rakhiye. (Hatred will not win, keep your beliefs.’) However, the politician did not explicitly name the comedian or the incident in the tweet.
नफ़रत नहीं जीतेगी- विश्वास रखिए
हार नहीं माननी, रुकना नहीं है।#StayUnited
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 28, 2021
Cancelling comedians and sending threats to them has been a regular part of the subcontinent where multiple comedians in the past have been abused, cancelled, and often accused of inciting hatred. Comedians Aadar Malik, Kunal Kamra, Sahil Shah, Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi, and many more have been threatened following a joke of theirs that has been taken out of context.
The threat to freedom of expression and the unconstitutionality of these cancellations are out there for everyone to see. Now it is the governments who need to step in and the duty of the judiciary to uphold the constitutional values.