‘We Hugged, Cried’: Munawar’s Friends on Meeting Him After 37 Days
“Even though Munawar appeared active, he seemed broken on the inside. Physically also he looked weak,” Anish said.
“As soon as we entered we all hugged him tightly and teared up. It is not like we have not gone months without meeting each other before, but these 37 days felt like an entire year had passed,” Munawar Faruqui’s friend 25-year-old Sagar Punjabi told The Quint after meeting him within hours of the comedian’s release from Indore jail on the intervening night of 6 and 7 February.
Stand-up comedian Munawar was detained from Indore on 1 January and subsequently arrested by MP Police on charges of ‘outraging religious feelings’ on the basis of a complaint registered by BJP MLA Malini Gaur’s son Eklavya Singh Gaur. Gaur is also the local convenor of a pro-Hindutva outfit called the Hindu Rakshak. It is important to mention that Faruqui’s performance had not yet begun and that the police told media houses that they did not have any video evidence of Faruqui insulting any gods from the particular event.
The Quint spoke to his friends Sagar, 24-year-old Saad and 23-year-old Anish, who are all stand up comedians themselves and met their friend Munawar on the afternoon of 7 February after thirty seven days. While they spoke to their friend, family members and other friends came in and out of the house. They were overwhelmed by emotion, often crying and holding onto Munawar.
Their First Meet: Hugs, Tears and an Emotional Family
As the friends entered the home they gave Munawar a hug and teared up. At the same time, they were overjoyed to finally see their friend. Through this month they have felt dejected too, especially because three previous attempts for bail were denied by courts, the third was by the Indore bench of the MP High Court on 28 January. “At various points, we felt it would be impossible for Munawar to get bail, we felt broken especially after the Indore High Court rejecting the order. We were worried we would never see our friend again. The fact that he is out is also surreal now. This has not been easy,” Saad said.
Saad, Anish, and Sagar have remained in touch with Munawar’s family through this time. While they waited to spend time with their friend, they witnessed Munawar’s relatives enter and leave, while they moved to a corner and assumed the role of silent spectators.
Anish said he saw Munawar’s sisters and aunts come in and cry profusely. “The environment was very emotional for all of us. Who knew we would go through something like this for a joke that was never cracked,” Anish said. Saad said the family was overwhelmed and scared. “At this moment, they are not thinking about the future and the challenges ahead but only trying to live in the present,” he added.
Munawar was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court on 5 February. This was the fourth application filed by his lawyers. Over a day after the order of ad-interim bail was ordered, a call had to be made by a judicial officer for Munawar to finally be released post-midnight on the intervening night of 6 and 7 February. Some reports indicate it was a Supreme Court judge who had to make the call, while others suggest it was the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Indore.
‘Munawar Said He Prayed Every Day To Get Out of Jail, Looked Broken’
The first thing the friends did together, was something they did a lot together when they hung out, eat a hearty meal together. “Before any of the real talking, we ate some delicious Biryani,” Sagar said sounding elated.
Speaking about what Munawar told them, Sagar and Saad said that Munawar has been categorically told not to comment on the case. “Munawar told us he wanted some time to talk, he said he wanted some more time to be in the zone where he could speak. Anyway, he and his team have been categorically instructed by the lawyers to not talk to anyone. All this caution is being exercised because he has only been granted interim bail right now. He genuinely believes and has full faith in the judiciary. So he wants to let the judicial course take its route.”
Sagar said that they respected Munawar’s decision to not talk to the media as well as his belief in the judiciary.
While Munawar told them a few things, the only thing Sagar divulged was how Munawar would spend his time inside the jail praying every single day that it would be his last. “Munawar was going through the same thing that we were going through outside, hoping that the next day would be his last in jail. After a point, you start losing hope,” Anish added.
Anish also said that it was evident that Munawar had gone through some kind of trauma. “Even though he appears active on the surface, from the inside you can say that he has been through a lot. He seemed broken on the inside. Physically also he was looking very weak. When I looked at his hands and legs, his veins were popping out like that of an old man.” Saad added that it was obvious that Munawar would remain scared till the cases continued to be lodged against him.
Saad said they did not want to go on and on and overwhelm their friend with information of what transpired outside. “So we actively did not bring up lots of topics, as we did not think it was the right time to raise them. We just want to be supportive of him. We do not want him to get into a bad zone,” Saad added. Anish said their efforts are towards ensuring that it feels like the last month did not happen to Munawar at all.
No one in the home, including family members brought up the old video where the controversial joke was made. “Family is very happy for now. They are so happy that after over a month he is finally home. They are not asking Munawar about what happened in the past. Everyone has been told not to bring up or talk about anything controversial for now. When the time is better, when conversations need to happen, they will,” Saad said.
All three told The Quint how his bail would have been impossible without several comedians raising their voice, “About 90 percent of all comedians have reached out for support at some point or another during this time. Without them raising their voice, bringing this matter up again and again, this would have never got the attention it did.”
Anish said he brought up the topic of how Munawar could return to comedy when they all met. “I asked him when he was going to perform next, if he had given it any thought or had written something new. But he did not say anything concrete. He said that let the case end first and then only will he think about performing again,” he said. Sagar added that Munawar was going to take a break from comedy for a while.
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