Mumbai-based stand-up comedian Agrima Joshua is in the middle of a social media storm as a controversy erupted over allegations of her insulting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The stand-up comic’s jokes have ‘upset’ Shiv Sena and they are now seeking her arrest. Agrima took to twitter to apologise to the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). But now she is getting rape threats on social media and is at the receiving end of a lot of ugly commentary from men whose ‘sentiments are hurt.’ Just recently another comedian Surleen Kaur was in the news because ISKCON filed complaint against comedian Surleen Kaur ‘for derogatory remarks against Hindu faith.’
The Story So Far
Home Minister Anil Deshmukh instructed police to take ‘legal action’ against stand-up comedian Agrima Joshua, on allegations of insulting Chhatrapati Shivaraj Maharaj.
Deshmukh tweeted on Saturday, “I have instructed CP (Commissioner of Police) Mumbai and IG (Inspector General) Cyber to take legal action expeditiously. I urge everyone to maintain calm and law will take its course.”
According to this report, this arrest in reaction to a complaint filed by MLA Pratap Sarnaik who demanded “strict” action against her and claimed that Joshua “insulted” Shivaji Maharaj.
Joshua apologised a few times on her social media as political figures got involved from official accounts seeking her arrest.
What’s The Video Saying?
A video from a year ago, April 2019, has gone viral suddenly where Joshua is allegedly joking about the Maharashtra government’s Shivaji statue project in the Arabian Sea. While the original clip is deleted, reports quote her clip saying:
“This Shivaji statue is an amazing masterstroke by Prime Minister Modi Ji,” Joshua says. “It will have solar cells which will power all of Maharashtra…It will also have GPS tracker…”
As it old clip went viral, Agrima tweeted at Uddhav Thackeray. “Dear @AUThackeray If you aren’t already aware of this, the @BJP4India IT Cell has unleashed a bunch of trolls at me claiming they’re Shiv Sena. Now, I am pretty sure the Shiv Sena, has better things to take care of in Maharashtra right now, than some comic doing her job.”
The standup act was part of a performance by Joshua in April 2019 at a comedy cafe in Khar (West), according to a report in The Indian Express. Now the cafe and its owners are dealing with vandalism and their names and personal information being spread out on social media. The cafe issued a statement that said, “To put forth a message, we devote our lives to finding creative expression. Not towards acts of barbaric violence or mindless sharing of violence.”
Trolls Check In
A widely shared tweet by a person named Ravi questioned why she was making fun of Hindu gods and not Muslim gods or Jesus. And one that directly threatens Agrima.
Agrima Joshua, why do you all stand up comedians bash Hindu Gods or leaders they worship? Why don't you touch Muhammad, Jesus, Christianity, Islam? And once in a while you get beaten up, you cry 'India is not safe country. Its being radicalized'. Why shouldn't Hindus stand up?
— Ravi Rai (@Raviravirai) July 10, 2020
Questions To Raise
Why should anyone send rape threats to a woman? Whether as a comedian she ‘insulted’ or whether there was ‘complaint’ does she deserve people posting videos that call for raping her? In India, we are beginning to question humour and political humour as a real issue. It’s humour isn’t it? Have we forgotten that we are nation that prides itself on free speech? This below video should not just be reported but give us goosebumps and make us think why a young man is willing to go online and threatened a woman with rape?
— Kunal Kamra (@kunalkamra88) July 11, 2020
Curator of the #MeToo twitter account Rituparna Chatterjee said on a tweet, “Simple question. Why must it even escalate to a rape threat for people to uphold basic principles of free speech?”
Poor thing she didn't make any joke about Shivaji. 99% of the people commenting here probably haven't even seen that video.
She spoke about some random people commenting in Quora about Shivaji. Why can't society be more accepting of comedy? I actually thought that she was funny.
— Sashank Vissa (@sashankvissa) July 11, 2020
Comedians & Politics
In 2018, Comedian Kunal Kamra was asked to move out of his house due to political reasons. In another case a complaint was filed against comedian Sanjay Rajoura for ‘mocking Hindu gods and goddesses and hurting religious sentiments.’ Just recently another comedian Surleen Kaur was in the news because ISKCON filed complaint against comedian Surleen Kaur ‘for derogatory remarks against Hindu faith.’
What resonates with us all is what philanthropist Rohini Nilekani said in a recent column about public and political leaders needing a funny bone. “Cases of sedition have been initiated on cartoonists and others, for criticising the government or the ruling party.” She added, “As citizens, we should renew our understanding of why political humour is critical to society.”