Indigo Grounds Kunal Kamra for 'Slandering' TV Anchor, 3 Other Airlines Join Ban After Minister’s Diktat

Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri has asked other airlines to ban the comedian for six months as well after he posted a video of himself berating Arnab Goswami during a flight.

New Delhi: IndiGo on Tuesday announced that it was suspending comedian Kunal Kumra from flying on the airlines for six months.

The airline also advised passengers to avoid “personal slander” of other passengers.

The announcement came in the aftermath of Kamra sharing a video where he is seen having a one-sided conversation with journalist Arnab Goswami on a flight.

In the video, Kamra remains unseen and his voice is heard berating Goswami for his stance on various political issues. Among other things, he calls him a “coward” and mimics Goswami’s style of speaking in the video.

Although Goswami does not react or acknowledge him in the course of the video, Kamra uploaded a statement on Twitter which says he called the comedian “mentally unstable.”

In the statement, Kamra also said he delivered the monologue at Goswami when the seat belt signs were off and that when it came to inconveniencing fellow passengers, he apologises to “every passengers except one.”

His statement and the video’s caption mentions Rohith Vemula, the Dalit Hyderabad University scholar who took his own life in 2016, triggering a nationwide protest movement against the Modi government.

Kamra has tweeted several times on the issue. Reacting to the IndiGo ban, he wrote that a six-month suspension was “very kind” and sought to bring up the fate of Air India.

Tharoor says Arnab’s reporters did same to him on two flights

While Kamra has been criticised by both supporters of the Republic TV anchor as well as detractors, and drawn praise from the latter, the comedian’s action drew public praise from the Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who tweeted that Goswami’s reporters had twice accosted him during flights:

Minister wants total flight ban on Kamra

Union minister for civil aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri, whom IndiGo had tagged in its tweets with the announcement has asked other airlines to impose similar restrictions on Kamra.

The minister’s swift intervention led some to question why the government had overlooked earlier instances of disruptions, on flight or off. The commentator Dhruv Rathee posted a video clip of a Times Now journalist getting up from her seat on a flight and going up to where RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav was seated in order to extract an “exclusive” interview.

Journalist Swati Chaturvedi raised the issue of BJP MP Pragya Thakur refusing to cooperate with in-fight crew on a matter of flight safety, leading to a delay in departure and ager among her co-passengers.

Some airlines, though, complied with Puri’s demand. Air India said Kamra will be not be allowed to use the airlines indefinitely.

SpiceJet and GoAir too have followed suit, barring Kamra from flying “till further notice”.

Vistara has said it will review the demand and follow due process.

Kamra reacts

Reacting to four airlines banning him, the stand-up comedian on Wednesday said he was never “unruly or disruptive”.

He also said the flying suspension was not “shocking” for him.

Shortly after SpiceJet suspended him from flying with the airline, the comedian posted a sarcastic tweet: “Modi ji, can I walk, or is there a ban even on that?”

In a statement issued on Twitter, Kamra said at no point did he not follow the orders of the cabin crew in the (Mumbai-Lucknow) flight.

“It’s not shocking at all to me that for exercising my right to speech, which falls under Article 19 of our constitution, 3 airlines have given me a temporary ban from flying. Fact of the matter is that at no point was I disruptive and at no point did I not follow the orders of the cabin crew or the captain,” he tweeted.

“At no point did I endanger the safety of any passenger on board, the only damage I caused was to the inflated ego to the ‘journalist’ Arnab Goswami,” he stated.

Kamra said he had not travelled with SpiceJet or Air India in this event and there is no “pattern of him being unruly”.

“This was the first time something like this has happened, so why have they jumped the gun and banned me? I’ve travelled SpiceJet and Air India in the past. There have been no complaints against me ever, only selfies and love has been shared by the crew,” he tweeted.

Kamra has also asked Vistara to suspend him in a fell swoop. The airline is the only one which has not banned him yet and has said it will resort to ‘due process’.

(With PTI inputs)