Agrima to Munawar: When Indian Comedians Were Targeted and Trolled
What makes stand-up comedians an easy target on social media?
In the past few years we have seen the stand-up comic scene in India blossom. Every year new comedians join the profession, and India's stand-up comedy is undoubtedly one of the most vibrant across the world. But is it easy being a comedian in the country?
Comedians in India have been subjected to a lot of criticism for their jokes and what they choose to comment on. Religious and cultural references need to be treaded on carefully, and any political joke gone wrong can prove to be brutal for your career.
On Friday, 1 January, stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested for allegedly “insulting” Home Minister Amit Shah and Hindu deities. Two days later, the Indore Police said that they do not have any video evidence to show that Faruqui had insulted Hindu deities during his performance at a cafe in the city, as per a report by The Indian Express.
Let's take a look at a few other examples of Indian comedians being targeted for their jokes:
AIB's 'Controversial' Roast
Social activist Santosh Daundkar had filed a complaint with the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Girgaon court in 2015 claiming that the AIB Roast was "vulgar".
'Roasts' do not go down well with the audience even in 2021, and this was still six years back when the majority wasn't aware of what this format of comedy, widely popular in the West, is all about.
The AIB Roast featured filmmaker Karan Johar as the host, and actors Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor as guests. The comedians and celebrities took digs at each other by joking about their on-screen and off-screen lives.
Following the court’s directive, an FIR was filed against NSCI president Jayantilal Shah, NSCI secretary general Ravinder Aggarwal and participants in the AIB Roast including Karan Johar, Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Rohan Joshi, Tanmay Bhatt, Gursimran Khamba, Ashish Shakya, Aditi Mittal, Deepika Padukone, Alia Bhatt and Rajeev Masand under sections of the IPC, including criminal conspiracy, hurting religious feelings and common intent.
Sanjay Rajoura,'Aisi Taisi Democracy' Targeted for "Mocking" Hindu Gods
Former Shiv Sena leader and RTI activist Ramesh Solanki filed a police complaint against stand-up comedian Sanjay Rajoura and the team of 'Aisi Taisi Democracy' in May last year.
"Not just filling complaint but will make sure Sanjay and his team is legally punished for mocking Hindu Gods and Goddesses and hurting Hindu sentiments. Hindu peace-loving hai coward nahi," Solanki had written on Twitter.
Sanjay Rajoura was forced to go offline from Twitter and his account still stands deactivated.
In the past Solanki has filed complaints against Tik Tok users and Netflix India. Towards the end of 2019, Ramesh Solanki had filed a police complaint against Netflix and demanded that the content of the online streaming site should be passed through a censor board.
He cited examples of shows such as Sacred Games, Leila and Ghoul, along with shows of standup comedian Hasan Minhaj to accuse Netflix of trying to "paint an incorrect picture of Hindus and India globally."
Kenny Sebastian Targeted for Commenting on 'TikTok Ban'
Kenny Sebastian took to social media to express his concern about the loss content creators faced after the government banned the Chinese app TikTok.
Sebastian was soon attacked by a prominent Hindutva handle Madhur Singh. Singh abused Sebastian in Hindi, referring to a common Hindu nationalist trope that Indian Christians are “rice bag converts” - a slur that accuses people of following Christianity not because of their convictions but due to the purported material benefits they receive from following the religion.
Agrima Joshua Trolled for a 'Joke' on Shivaji Maharaj
A YouTuber, Shubham Mishra, issued rape threats against comedian Agrima Joshua. Mishra was detained by the Vadodara police and the Maharashtra Cyber Cell also arrested another individual over the same allegations.
Shubham Mishra was held after many Bollywood actors and stand-up comedians raised concerns over the video he posted using foul language and issuing rape threats against Joshua. The National Commission for Women had also taken cognizance of the matter and wrote to the Gujarat Police seeking immediate action against Mishra.
To put an end to all, Agrima Joshua had to issue an apology for using the words that she did, which were deemed "offensive".
But it wasn't just that, Joshua was heavily trolled after Mishra issued open threats. The incident led to other comedians being targeted too.
Rohan Joshi Trolled for Supporting Agrima Joshua
After Rohan Joshi spoke out in support of Agrima Joshua, images of his old tweets on the Thackeray family and Mamata Banerjee surfaced all over social media.
Soon after that, Joshi's personal contact details surfaced all over social media and the comedian was forced to go offline for a week from Instagram. His Twitter account still stands deactivated.
Stand-up comedians Aadar Malik, Sahil Shah and Azeem Banatwalla also had to apologise for their years old videos and social media posts that resurfaced online. The comedians said they were sorry if they had offended or hurt anyone's religious sentiments and also requested that their families be spared of online vitriol.
Kunal Kamra Banned by Airlines
Kunal Kamra was banned from flying by Indigo for about two months after he recorded a video from inside the flight questioning Arnab Goswami. After Indigo's ban, other airlines followed suit.
In his statement, Kamra said that people should ask Arnab Goswami for comment, instead of seeking his statement. He wrote, “To all the journalists calling me I have no comment to offer on Indigo banning me for 3 months instead of 6 months now, can’t be objective on an issue where I’m the subject. I’m not a victim in any way. I can get to anywhere I desire through multiple modes of transport, like most people in the country.”
In its notice to Kamra, the airlines said that the decision to ban him was taken because of his “unruly conduct” aboard the IndiGo.
Of late we have seen many comedians refrain from using Twitter because of the increasing hate on the social media platform. They have now moved to Instagram which serves as a relatively safer platform. Twitter search is more susceptible to organised trolling as opposed to Instagram.
Comedians and satirists have a massive fan following on social media. Majority of the followers are young people, which probably makes them more susceptible to hate and trolling.
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