Two days after standup comedian Munawar Faruqui and four others were arrested for allegedly insulting religious sentiments of Hindus, a woman claiming to be part of the audience took to Instagram and denied that any derogatory remarks were made by him during the show while a police officer said there was no video evidence showing him making the remarks.
This came even as fellow standup comedians expressed solidarity with Faruqui and underlined the importance of humour.
Indore Police on Friday arrested Faruqui and four associates following a complaint from Eklavya Gaur, son of Indore-4 BJP MLA Malini Gaur, that they allegedly insulted Hindu deities during the show and also cracked jokes on Home Minister Amit Shah. “He is serial offender and often cracks defamatory jokes on Hindu gods and goddesses,” Gaur told reporters outside the police station.
“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.” Subsequently, he and his associates stopped the show and brought them to Tukaganj Police Station and submitted videos of the show, he said.
However, Town Inspector of Tukaganj Police Station Kamlesh Sharma told The Indian Express they have no evidence against Faruqui directly and that he has been booked as an organiser. “There’s no evidence against him for insulting Hindu deities or Union Minister Amit Shah,” he said. He said the two videos submitted by the complainant are of another comedian with him allegedly cracking jokes on Lord Ganesh.
The police have registered an FIR against Faruqui and his associates from Indore — Edvin Anthony, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas and Nalin Yadav — under Sections 295-A, 298, 269, 188 & 34 of the IPC.
A day after the incident, videos of the conversation between Gaur and Faruqui were doing the rounds on social media. In a video, both are on stage with Gaur accusing Faruqui of provoking Hindu sentiments while the latter is trying to convince him. After a long conversation, Gaur leaves the stage.
On Sunday, Jenosha Agnes, who claimed to be a member of the audience, recounted the incident 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.”
“Munawar politely clarified that he never had the intention to hurt anyone. He handled the situation very well and they backed off,” she said. A few minutes later, a crowd entered the hall and the organisers backed out. Then police arrived and arrested Faruqui and others, she said. “No derogatory remarks were made by Munawar Faruqui at the Indore show,” she said.
Faruqui’s lawyer Asad Warsi said they are going to file for bail on Monday. “We are pleading there is no such evidence of offences against any of them.”
Several comics, including Varun Grover, Vir Das, Kaneez Surkha, Agrima Joshua and Rohan Joshi, meanwhile, took to social media in support of Faruqui.
Grover took to Instagram and alleged that Faruqui was assaulted. Sharing a video of the incident, he 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.”
Comics Surka and Abish Mathew also shared the clip of Faruqui on Instagram.
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.”