Hindutva group Bajrang Dal members travelled all the way from Gujarat to Mumbai and threatened the organisers and venue owners of the two auditoriums where stand-up comic Munawar Faruqui’s shows were scheduled. Munawar confirmed the cancellation of three shows through an Instagram post.
The Rightwing activists allegedly threatened the owners of Bandra’s Rangshardha auditorium and Borivali hall. There was one show on October 29 in the Borivali Hall and two shows in the Rangasharda auditorium on October 30 and October 31.
“We were threatened on Tuesday afternoon by three members of Bajrang Dal. They said ‘this show is against Hindus’. I told them producers book the hall and we do not ask who is the artist. I told them that the organiser has censor certificate, but still the Bajrang Dal members were threatening us. They told us they will burn the place, so we decided to cancel the show. At that time I called the police, who escorted them out of my premises,” said Purnima Shah, owner of Rangsharda auditorium.
Purnima further stated, “Before this incident, two people from Bajrang Dal had also threatened my staff over phone. Police had come then too and we provided them with phone numbers of the callers. I have given in writing that we are cancelling the show because of the threats.”
“We were under tremendous pressure as the police had served us a notice that we will be booked if any law and order problem occurs due to the act. For safety of our audience, we called it off. But it’s really sad that an artist is being targeted because of his religion and some joke he cracked two years ago. Everyone makes mistakes and it was made amply clear to the police that no Hindu sentiments will be hurt,” said another organiser who wished to maintain anonymity.
“We gave a warning to Bajrang Dal that action will be taken if it creates any issue. We also served a notice to the organisers,” said Manohar Dhanavde, Senior Inspector of Bandra police station.
“The police have information that the act may contain content that may hurt religious sentiments of Hindus or other religions. In such case, if a law and order problem takes place due to such content that hurts religious sentiments, then action will be taken against the organisers and the notice will be used as evidence against them in court,” read the notice.
Incarcerated For Show That Never Took Place
Munawar Farooqui is in the headlines since the beginning of this year. He, along with four others, was arrested on January 2 from Indore after a local BJP MLA accused him of hurting Hindu sentiments.
The MLA claimed that he overheard Faruqui allegedly passing “indecent remarks” about Hindu deities and Union home minister Amit Shah while rehearsing for an Indore show
He was incarcerated for a month and Madhya Pradesh High Court rejected his bail pleas twice. Finally, Supreme Court granted Munawar interim bail on February 5. The police also admitted there was no evidence that Faruqui had actually hurt Hindu sentiments.
National, International Artists Stood In Solidarity
International and Indian stand-up comedians, filmmakers, artists, and writers had issued a statement to drop all the charges against Munawar Faruqui.
“His family lost their home during the large-scale 2002 violence in Gujarat, and moved to Mumbai where Munawar sold utensils and did other odd jobs during the day and studied at night. He started stand-up comedy just two years ago, quickly garnering some success,” the statement said.
“Comedy and satire are necessary to ensure a healthy democracy, as they facilitate the free communication of new ideas and critical thinking. Faruqui’s arrest was “nothing short of a violation of their fundamental right to free speech and expression,” said Julie Trébault, Director of PEN America’s Artists at Risk Connection.
“Faruqui is one individual, but a young, outspoken Muslim comedian. His case encapsulates so much of what is happening in India in recent years. We are seeing rising discrimination and violence toward Muslims and other minorities, towards artists and members of the media, and towards any public figure who dares to dissent against the government. That is why we, as young South Asian Americans, are taking a stand in solidarity with Faruqui, and South Asia’s numerous others prisoners of conscience,” said Reclaiming India.