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Indian comedian Munawar Faruqui imprisoned over a joke he didn’t even tell

30-year-old comedian Munawar Faruqui was detained for over a month after he was accused of insulting Hinduism during his set.

With his country already dwelling in political unrest, Indian stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui was reportedly arrested over a joke he didn’t tell.

Faruqui spent his 30th birthday in Indore prison following his arrest on January 1.

Munawar Faruqui

The arrest was filed by Eklavya Gaur, son of BJP MLA Malini Gaur (Mayor of Indore), who claimed that Faruqui used obscene language against Hindu deities during his comedy set at an Indore cafe.

Footage filmed by an audience member shows Gaur storming to the stage minutes after Faruqui begins his set, accusing him of “making indecent and vulgar remarks”. 

Faruqui calmly responded to the accusations, saying that his jokes did not target anyone in particular and adding that he has also made jokes about the triple talaq (a formerly enforced practise permitting a Muslim man to divorce his wife by speaking or texting the word three times).

Faruqui was arrested along with four associates minutes later, was rejected of bail, and detained in judicial custody for over a month. “He is a serial offender and often cracks defamatory jokes on Hindu gods and goddesses” Gaur told reporters outside Tukaganj Police Station.

Following multiple denied requests, the comic was released on bail three days ago. Ultimately, the Supreme Court granted this request on the basis that there were no videos or materials to show Faruqui made any comment to hurt Hindu deities.

Beside the fact, the arrest follows a crackdown on free speech by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Since Modi’s rise to power in 2014, many hard-line Hindu organisations that marginalise the Muslim community have risen to prominence. According to the Los Angeles Times, Faruqui’s friends believe the comedian was targeted because of his Muslim faith.

Under Article 51(A)(e) of the Indian Constitution, every citizen of the country must “promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood… irrespective of religions”. The constitution also dictates that society should not be “polluted by negative forces”. 

Faruqui’s bail comes despite the High Court concluding that there is “prima facie evidence to suggest that the applicant had intended to outrage religious feelings under the garb of standup comedy”. 

Many comedians and celebrities have taken to social media, protesting the unwarranted arrest and silencing of humour.

Comedian Vir Das commented, “you can’t stop jokes and laughter. Anyone who has ever tried to control humour, now has a category of jokes devoted to them”. He even managed to dig up a tweet by Prime Minister Modi from 2017 that agrees on the need for more humour.

South Asian American comedians also gathered yesterday for a virtual comedy show called ‘The Right to Laugh’, standing in solidarity for Munawar Faruqui.

The case gained even more controversy after bail was granted for a man accused of attempting to sexually assault a minor. Not to mention that the four others arrested with the Faruqui are still detained.