Muslim comedian Munawar Faruqui is being charged under Section 295A of India’s penal code, which prohibits “deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.” Faruqui was arrested after a group of Hindu nationalists called Hind Rakshak Sangathan rushed his show at the Monroe cafe in Indore on January 1st and cut the comedian off before he could start his act, reported tour manager Vishesh Arora.
Mumbai-based Faruqui, 30, is facing legal action in two states, Madhya Pradesh where he was arrested while performing by Indore police for allegedly insulting Hindu deities during rehearsals and in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh where he is sought by the police in another case of allegedly insulting Hindu divinities as well as Home Minister Amit Shah.
Over the past few years, numerous Indian comics have suffered police cases or mob threats for allegedly hurting religious or other sentiments, however, many suggest the pattern indicates the diminishing freedom of speech in the country. In December, top comedian Kunal Kamra and young cartoonist Rachita Taneja were served show-cause notices by the Supreme Court in response to complaints alleging they had ridiculed to the top court.
Indore police originally claimed that “objectionable comments” were made against Hindu deities at the event. The city’s Superintendent of Police Vijay Khatri issued a statement where they claimed they had “enough evidence” against Faruqui and others arrested. Eyewitnesses told reporters that Faruqui did not crack any jokes relating to religion when he was arrested and that he hadn’t even started his routine when Mr Gaud stopped the show. Last week, however, Khatri told an Indian news website, that Faruqui had not made the jokes at the performance but was “going to”.
Activists and fans of the jailed comic are angered on social media and demand justice for the comic as #MunawarFaruqui trends on Twitter. Many even point out that the outlook towards his case by the authorities is based on discrimination.