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'Seen as Variant of Virus Now': Kunal Kamra as Comedian's Bengaluru Shows Cancelled

Kamra's four-page tweeted note mentions the similarity of his predicament to Munawar Faruqui's and also contains a "formula" for how to cancel a show.

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New Delhi: Days after comedian Munawar Faruqui announced that he was done with comedy after umpteen shows of his were cancelled under pressure from rightwing Hindutva groups, comedian Kunal Kamra too announced through a tweet that his latest shows, too, had been cancelled.

Kamra has frequently been in the crosshairs of the current Bharatiya Janata Party government and those loyal to it, primarily because of his outspoken critique of policies and rising intolerance.

Kamra’s shows, like Faruqui’s final cancellation, was to have taken place in Bengaluru. While the police note ordering the cancellation for Faruqui’s show had been criticised because it conveyed that police were bowing to threats of violence instead of protecting the persons being threatened, Kamra’s shows stuttered at the permission stage itself.

Shows of Kamra’s, scheduled over the next 20 days, were cancelled for two reasons, he wrote.

“Firstly, we didn’t get special permissions to seat 45 people in the venue that can seat more. Secondly, threats have been made to shut down the venue if I were to ever perform there. I guess this is also part of the COVID protocol and new guidelines. I suppose I am seen as a variant of the virus now,” he wrote.

Bengaluru police has not made a comment on these allegations yet.

Kamra also added that those who had thought that he was being allowed to ply his trade when a Muslim comedian, Faruqui, was being stopped from doing a similar thing, could now “find solace in the fact that the ruling class is at least trying to oppress with equality.”

Bitingly, he writes, “Maybe if we continue down the road of equal oppression, we would get to a point of equal liberation, in a post climate change era,” indicating that such a day of “liberation” appears extraordinarily far.

Kamra’s four-page tweeted note also contains a “formula” for how to cancel a show. It includes five tongue-in-cheek steps, narrating with satire a path that has been followed by rightwing groups to get Faruqui and Kamra’s shows cancelled. For instance, Faruqui’s shows were cancelled in Goa, Mumbai and Raipur, before they were cancelled in Bengaluru.

Even before these cancellations, Faruqui had been jailed for a month over a complaint filed by a BJP leader’s son, who claimed to have “overheard” him rehearsing allegedly offensive jokes. The Supreme Court eventually granted him bail.

Faruqui’s imprisonment had resulted in outrage with even foreign organisations decrying the flagrant trampling upon his basic rights and his freedom of expression.

“You can also apply this formula to an artist that you don’t agree with, you don’t find funny or don’t like their art,” he wrote, to mark how easy it is to now victimise artistes.

In a separate tweet, Kamra also tagged Bengaluru MP Tejasvi Surya, a known crusader for communal politics whose anti-Muslim tweet the Union government once asked Twitter to block.

Kamra’s satirical tweets have earlier led him to the Supreme Court on a contempt charge, which he responded to with an affidavit that carried the line, “Should powerful people and institutions continue to show an inability to tolerate rebuke or criticism, we would be reduced to a country of incarcerated artists and flourishing lapdogs.”

Earlier, IndiGo, Spicejet, Go Air, Air India and Vistara announced suspensions for Kamra from flying on their airlines for six months in the aftermath of the comedian sharing a video where he is seen having a one-sided conversation with journalist Arnab Goswami on a flight.

Then Union aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri issued a highly controversial “advice” to other airlines to ban him.