Munawar Faruqui Stand-Up Row: Why Shutting Down A Comedy Show Should Bother Us

Munawar Faruqui stand-up
Munawar Faruqui Stand-Up Row: Comedian Munawar Faruqui’s upcoming stand-up show in Bengaluru was cancelled after the city’s police raised concerns over the law and order situation with the organisers. The revelation was made by the comedian on social media in a post, in which he also said that he was “done” indicating that he was contemplating pulling curtains on his career. The cancellation of Faruqui’s stand-up show is a matter of concern for all of us. What does the future look like for anyone who intends to raise their voice, in the form of satire or otherwise, and thus must face literal policing out of concern for law and order?

Nafrat jeet hai, Artist haar gaya. I’m done! Goodbye! INJUSTICE,” Faruqui wrote in his post, in which he also shared a statement revealing that his show on November 28 in Bengaluru, called “Dongri to Nowhere”, had been pulled down by the organisers. Faruqui claimed that he had a censor certificate for the show and that there was nothing problematic in it. Yet, the comedian had to call off 12 shows in the last two months due to threats to the venue and audience.

The show was for a charity funded by late actor Puneeth Rajkumar’s organisation and the organisers had sold over 600 tickets, as revealed by Faruqui in his post. However, Bengaluru Police said they had come across threats and credible information claiming that show could create “chaos and disturb public peace and harmony, which may lead to law and order problems.”

The Bengaluru incident has shocked many as people can’t figure out why did the city’s police ask organisers to pull down the show, instead of providing security to the venue, audience and the comedian? Or take action against those who put out this threat?

While social media has been busy extending support to Faruqui, it is important to identify the systemic censorship Faruqui has been facing for a stand-up that allegedly hurt religious sentiments. The 29-year-old comedian was arrested in January this year after a complaint was filed against him for performing an offensive stand-up in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. He had to spend over a month in jail before he was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court of India.

In his latest post, Faruqui had said that he was arrested for a joke that he never did. But his troubles show no signs of ceasing after he managed to secure bail, as various right-wing outfits threatened to upset his shows. In October, Faruqui’s show in Mumbai was pulled down over safety concerns. In September, the same fate was meted out to his shows in Gujarat, his native state, after right-wing outfit Bajarang Dal protested against Faruqui’s show, calling it “anti-Hindu”.

munawar faruqui stand-up, vir das on two indias row, Vir Das Two Indias ,two indias controversy

Image: Vir Das / Instagram

Recently, comedian Vir Das faced flak from the right-wing for his “two Indias monologue”. A member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party also filed a complaint against the comedian in New Delhi, for making “defamatory” comments about the country. Read more about it here. Will anyone be surprised if the comedian’s future shows in India too face cancellations, due to threats of disruption and harm to those in attendance?

These threats are nothing but a form of censorship to curtail free speech that offends the sentiments of some (or many). Today, it is comedians, tomorrow it could be any of us who is simply speaking our mind, raising a voice against oppression, discrimination, violence, bias or any cause close to our heart. All a certain group has to do is to call our speech hateful/offensive/problematic/ insulting, which paints a poor picture of the nation or Indian society. Such a mindset could lead us, women, down a road where being offended becomes a way to preserve a toxic way of life.

And that’s why the cancellation of Faruqui’s shows should bother us. It is not just about curtailing a person’s freedom of speech but also warning others to fall in line, else bear similar consequences. The correct recourse for offensive speech is legal action, not the use of brute force and threats to have your way.

Suggested Reads For You:

Devoted My Life To Writing About My Country: Vir Das Speaks Out On “Two Indias”

I&B Ministry To Regulate OTT Content And News Portals: Can Free Speech Survive Censorship?

Zip Your Lips and Stay Sanskaari? Censorship Knocking At The Doors OTT Platforms

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