A Muslim Comedian Takes Stage in BJP’s Madhya Pradesh; Next He Goes to Jail

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Stand-up comedian Munawwar Faruqui

“The FIR against him and four others has invoked sections 295-A, 298 (speaking with intention to wound religious feeling),  269 (spread of infection/coronavirus), 188 (Disobedience to order of public servant) and 34 (offense by several persons with common intention).”

Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui will spend next few days or more in jail over the allegations of insulting Hindu deities and making comments critical of Home Minister Amit Shah in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, police and media reports said.

Edwin Anthony, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas, all residents of Indore, who accompanied Faruqui,  on the show, were also arrested. One more person named Shadab is reported to have been arrested for participating in the show.

“They have been booked under 295-A under the charges of insulting religious sentiments and sent to jail,” a police official dealing with the case told Clarion India over the phone from Indore.

The complaint against Faruqui was filed by Eklavya Singh Gaur, son of a BJP lawmaker Malini Laxman Singh Gaur, who was part of the audience of the show held at a cafe in the city on Friday. “I already knew about this event of Faruqui. He is a serial offender and makes derisive remarks on Hindu gods and goddesses frequently and also about Godhra incident. So, I and some of my volunteers booked the ticket and went there.”

Faruqui, who comes from Junagadh region of Gujrat, took the stage and was about to speak through a microphone. Next Gaur and his men got up from the audience and began disrupting. “It was exactly what we had speculated. The Hindu gods and goddesses were being ridiculed,” Gaur told reporters in Indore on Saturday, “They mentioned Union Minister Amit Shah and linked him to Godhra riots and things like that.”

The disruption was followed by police action. Faruqui and other comics were booked under charges of insulting religion and arrested.

At a local court on Saturday, the accused were sent to judicial remand for two weeks (up to January 13) after the judge rejected the bail plea filed under section 437.

Gaur had claimed that he had recorded the video to back his allegation against the show. But a local correspondent citing a police official said that ‘no video’ is available to show Faruqui “cracked objectionable jokes on Hindu god and goddess”. Videos submitted by Gaur only have one ‘Hindu’ comedian cracking these jokes, the correspondent said in a tweet.

Jenosha Agnes, a member of the audience recounted the events that transpired at the show in an Instagram post. She categorically denied the allegation against Faruqui. “No derogatory remarks were made by Munawar Faruqui at the Indore show.”

When Gaur and his men got up from the audience, she said, “Munawar hadn’t started performing yet”. He politely clarified his intention and they “dispersed”.

He started his performance which focused on travelling to Delhi to attend his friend’s wedding. But, 4-5 minutes into his act and more men gathered outside the venue. The organisers backed out. Then police arrived on the scene and arrested Munawar and other comics.

The actions of the Gaur and his men and subsequent police arrests has sparked public outrage with netizens demanding release of Faruqui and others under a hashtag #ReleaseMunawar. They argue he has been targeted for his religious identity.

Faruqui ‘s lawyer Ashhar Warsi told Clarion India on Sunday morning, “The FIR has invoked sections 295- A (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious belief), 298 (speaking with intention to wound religious feeling),  269 (spread of infection/coronavirus), 188 (Disobedience to order of public servant) and 34 (offence by several persons with common intention).” Offences registered under section 298 are non-cognizable and bailable.

Warsi said the police have detained one more person named Shadab who is claimed to have participated in the show.

He said they are going to file the bail application tomorrow (Monday) which will come up for hearing the next day. “We are pleading there is no such evidence of offences against any of them,” Warsi said.

(Earlier version of the article had not mentioned that the FIR has invoked section 295-A.)

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