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Munawar Faruqui's Shows Cancelled: Is the Space for Political Comedy Shrinking?

What do actions towards comics signal about the right to freedom of expression and law and order in India?

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It feels like an almost everyday incidence now that we hear a standup comic in India being slammed or trolled for something they said or a particular performance they did.

But in stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui’s case - 12 of his shows were cancelled just over the last few months - the latest being in Bengaluru where he was supposed to perform a set called ‘Dongri to Nowhere'.

The comic had to spend a month in jail on charges of allegedly making jokes against Hindu gods and goddesses. He was released from jail 35 days later after the Supreme Court found that evidence against him was “vague” and the fact that he did not crack a single joke. But from then on it's been out of the pan and into the fire for him.

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The comic has faced a wave of targeted hounding on social media from right wing groups. And if it's not over pressure from right-wing groups, then it's the city police who have gotten his shows cancelled.

In the recent incident from Bengaluru, the police wrote that his show could “create chaos and could disturb the public peace and harmony which may further lead to law and order problems.”

But this statement begs the question- isn’t it the job of the police to safeguard the safety and rights of citizens when there is an established threat?

And more importantly, what do these kinds of actions towards comics signal about the right to freedom of expression and law and order in India?

To discuss this, we spoke with Dr NC Asthana, the former DGP of Kerala, Siddharth Dash, a stand-up comic and show producer for Faruqui’s Bengaluru show and Arpit Sharma, a satirist and comedian. Tune in!

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