New Delhi: Despite any evidence, video or otherwise that the jokes he made were made about Hinduism, Muslim stand-up comic Munawar Faruqui and his four friends and associates have been denied bail and imprisoned for nearly two weeks, Article 14 has reported.
Indore East Superintendent of Police Vijay Khatri told Article 14 that Faruqui, 30, made no such jokes. Faruqui and his associates were arrested on the basis of allegations made by Eklavya Gaur, son of four-time BJP MLA Malini Gaur.
According to the report, Khatri said the police had “oral evidence” where the complainant claimed that he “overheard” rehearsal jokes that Faruqui was “going to” say in his act. He also praised the vigilantes for being “active and alert”.
However, the “oral evidence” – based on which Faruqui and five others have been arrested and denied bail – is not backed by any evidence or videos.
Police officer’s claims against Faruqui
Surprisingly, Khatri told Article 14 “it didn’t really matter” if Faruqui had not made the comments that were the basis for the arrests.
“There was hungama (ruckus) at the venue even before Faruqui could perform,” Khatri told the news portal. “But, we were told (by the complainants) that when they (comics) were rehearsing before the show, they were cracking jokes about Ram, Shivji.”
Khatri said the complainant’s claim indicated “intent” that they [Faruqui and others] were going to joke about Hindu gods. He further told Article 14 that Faruqui’s April 2020 video – where he joked about a popular Hindi song, ‘Mere Piya Ghar Aaya, Oh Ram Ji’ – proved Faruqui’s “intent” to joke about Hindu gods.
The video – which has now been deleted – had led to #ArrestMunawarFaruqui trending on social media.
“Apart from the rehearsals, there were his old videos too,” Khatri told the news portal. “They were going to do it, anyway. All of their jokes were about Hindu gods and goddesses. It isn’t as if they would have not cracked these jokes if there was no hungama.”
Hindutva’s humour business
The complainant, Eklavya Singh Gaur, is convenor of the Hind Rakshak Sangathan (Hindu Protection Union). According to Article 14, on January 1, Gaur alleged that Faruqui had “poked fun” at Hindu gods and goddesses in his act at Indore’s Monroe Café, and demanded his performance be halted.
Following his complaint, Faruqui along with four others – Prakhar Vyas, Nalin Yadav, Pratik Vyas and Edwin Anthony – were arrested by the Indore Police.
“He is serial offender and often cracks defamatory jokes on Hindu gods and goddesses,” Gaur reportedly said outside the police station.
A day later, Faruqui’s friend, Sadakat Khan, was arrested by the Indore Police on charges of being a co-organiser of the event. Khan was not even named as an accused in the first information report. Added to that, he was verbally abused and attacked by an unidentified person in the presence of the police, while being taken into custody, the report further said.
All six were charged under Sections 295-A (deliberately intending to outrage religious feelings), 298 (uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person), 269 (negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life), 188 (disobedience to order) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. If convicted, they could face imprisonment for up to four years.
— Kashif Kakvi (@KashifKakvi) January 3, 2021
Police defending Hindutva vigilante’s act
On January 13, Khatri reportedly denied the police had any such video proof against Faruqui. However, he defended Faruqui’s arrest.
According to the report, the prosecution linked Faruqui’s act on January 1 to communal violence in Ujjain and Indore on 25 December and 29 December. This allegation is backed by no evidence. It further told the court that the police needed to “investigate” whether the show’s timing was “pre-planned” to coincide with the violence.
Therefore, Faruqui’s bail plea was earlier rejected by the court claiming that it could create a “law and order” situation.
Despite any evidence, Faruqui’s judicial custody was extended by two more weeks. His case will be heard by the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh high court on January 15.
“It is wrong to say that he should be released because he didn’t crack any jokes. Nor did the others, because as soon as the first comic tried to do it, there was commotion,” Khatri told Article 14, referring to the opening act by Prakhar Vyas, a local comic, who he alleged had cracked jokes about the Hindu god Ganesh.
“Aap log toh yeh karne hi aaye the. Aap planning kar ke aaye the. (This is exactly what you had come to do here. You had planned to do this),” Khatri told the news portal, referring to Faruqui and his associates.
“When you four are going to do something together and the first act itself kicks up a controversy, why should the other three (acts) be allowed to continue?” Khatri told the portal.
A fan who was at the show took to Instagram and claimed that Gaur went on the stage even before Faruqui began his set.
Faruqui’s lawyer Ashhar Warsi of Indian Civil Liberties Union told BOOM that since the police has not found any evidence against Faruqui hurting religious sentiments, there’s no case against him.