Shubham Mishra Has Been Arrested, But The Problem Of Offence-Taking Still Persists
Instagram user Shubham Mishra has been arrested by Gujarat’s Vadodara police, for his two-minute video in which he can be seen threatening stand -up comedian Agrima Joshua with rape, in graphic details. His video followed outrage over Joshua’s video clip from last year which contains a joke that many followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj have taken offence to.
The video was widely circulated, with users demanding action – surprisingly, not against Mishra, but Joshua. Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Anil Deshmukh also got involved, assuring people that due action would be taken against Joshua. And all this, despite Joshua’s best efforts to placate the situation – she had already deleted the video, apologised multiple times, and was regretful of hurting sentiments.
26 year old Mishra, who likes to go by the name Badass Shubham, after receiving public pressure, eventually took down his abusive video. By this time, the Vadodara police had taken note, since Mishra was located in Gujarat, and arrested him on July 12. He was charged under IPC sections 294 (obscenity), 354 (A), 504 (intentionally insults to break public peace) 505 (statements conducing to public mischief), 506 (criminal intimidation), 509 (intending to insult the modesty of a woman).
Shubham Mishra Arrested, But Questions Still Unanswered
This may all seem like a happy ending. But it’s actually not. There is still a lot to outrage over.
The first question that begs attention, is why was Joshua compelled to delete her video in the first place? Have people become so intolerant as to demand instant arrest of a comedian over a joke she made a year ago? And remember, Joshua’s video still remains deleted, even after Mishra’s arrest. She is still fearful of putting her joke out.
The second thing to note here is that Mishra’s arrest took an entire day. It was a consequence of an entire day’s (and night’s) work by social media. The National Commission for Women (NCW) was alerted by Kunal Kamra, notable comedians like Vir Das, Sumukhi Suresh, Mallika Dua supported Joshua and explicitly condemned Mishra, netizens repeatedly reported Mishra’s offensive video – but to no avail. The only result it yielded was that Mishra deleted his video, and fearlessly uploaded another with some drivel about “how he respected women” and that “Joshua would never dare to commit such a mistake again after his threats.”
His wasn’t an apology video, like the one Joshua had helplessly made after receiving arrest, rape and death threats from the devotees of Shivaji Maharaj. Mishra’s second video was another chance for him to chest-thump and justify his earlier, deleted video.
Are Authorities Focusing On The Wrong Issue?
It took the stepping in of a celebrity – Swara Bhaskar – to alert Minister Deshmukh in terms equalling “hey, look here, this is the offensive video you should be taking action against.” He responded saying, “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj taught us to respect women. But if someone is using/threatening the wrong language about women, then there is a law for them,” asking the cyber cell and Mumbai police to take necessary action, which set things rolling.
The authorities, as well as people who take offence at the drop of a hat, have some warped priorities. Isn’t threatening to openly rape anyone the graver of the two crimes? The other crime, Joshua’s joke, frankly speaking, wasn’t even offensive in the least in this situation. But since the funniness of a joke is a subjective matter, we can leave it to the whims of each person’s own common sense.
However offensive a joke is deemed to be, does it warrant a rape threat to a woman, man, anyone? Why is mutilating a woman’s body the first punishment everyone demands after she does something that doesn’t agree with them? Why do people choose to take offence at a joke, and not weigh in on threats of sexual assault? Moreover, why is it, that authorities in India only judge the seriousness of an issue after a verified celebrity account jumps on the wagon? Are common citizens’ voices not being heard?
Freedom of Speech?
One Shubham Mishra has been arrested, but there are a thousand others like him roaming the streets of India, and even coursing their way online. Mishra has shown them the way, and they are coming out in droves now against Joshua, and by extension, every woman in the country. One of them is Hindustani Bhau, whose offensive words against Javed Akhtar gained so much traction online that he was invited on Bigg Boss as a contestant. And not ironically. He was good for TRP numbers. He has a verified Instagram account now, where he is free to spew hatred against anyone he wants, including Joshua, backed by the shield of his blue tick? This is the real consequence abusive men face in India – fame on a TV show and memes that popularise them.
This is a clear indication that there is something wrong with our social and legal systems. Overturned cars are the norm and rape threats are commonplace. And the authorities and people are comfortable with that. Complacent even. In fact, they encourage it. Efforts are being made in the wrong direction – a joke is given more prominence than a rape threat. The wrong kind of free speech is being encouraged. It’s time we start taking offence at the right things.
Tanvi Akhauri is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. Views expressed are the author’s own.