Why Female Comedians Refused to Talk on Agrima Joshua Controversy
No one wants to talk about the threats because everyone is getting threats for even standing up for each other.
Mumbai-based stand-up comedian Agrima Joshua has been receiving rape threats after a controversy erupted over her jokes that allegedly insulted Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
Some social media influencers, celebrities and fellow stand-up comedians took to social media to speak up in support of Joshua and condemn the incident. However, when The Quint reached out to over half a dozen female stand-up comedians, they refused to talk to the media about it.
Not because they don’t care enough or because they are scared that the media will misquote them. The truth is that they are scared that after Joshua, they might be next.
The female stand-up comedians The Quint approached have revealed that they are being abused and threatened on social media for just supporting Joshua. It has come to a point where even their families are feeling unsafe. Thus, for their own safety and sanity, they have refrained from speaking.
“This is what the system is doing to artistes in India. Artists who are known to bring out thought-provoking content through humour are being shut down”, said one of the comedians who wished to stay anonymous.
“Waking up to abusive messages and threats has become regular for most of these stand-up comedians. Deleting comments and blocking abusive social media profiles everyday is almost a routine part of their day”, she added.
Another comedian mentioned how these threats aren’t just virtual anymore.
“The threats are not restricted to virtual platforms anymore. However, it has now taken up a physical manifestation wherein 14 goons landed up outside our comedy venue Habitat, Khar, during the lockdown, forced open a shut restaurant and then went on to vandalise the property. So these aren’t virtual threats anymore and they have been executed without any fear. This has happened in the past as well and nothing seems to stop them.”
Coming back to the Agrima Joshua controversy, all her colleagues have said that they are willing to stand by her in whatever way they can but doing a video interview for the media is out of question. According to one of the female comedians who spoke to The Quint, the reason for this is that "it becomes a one-stop-shop for all the harassers and trolls" to get their details.
Another important concern was Joshua’s well-being.
The female comedians fear that by talking about the incident, they might attract more hate towards her. Additionally, they have refused to speak to the media about Joshua without the latter's explicit consent in the matter.
The fears of the female stand-up comedians that The Quint spoke to are legitimate, especially considering how unsafe the current environment is. The systems that are supposed to work to protect them are, instead, working against them. In Joshua's case, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, on social media, had 'instructed' the police to take legal action against the comedian. However, later he made a U-turn when actor Swara Bhasker tagged him on social media, urging him to take action against the man in the video.
Deshmukh, in his reply to Swara, directed the Maharashtra Cyber Cell to verify the video and the Mumbai Police to "take appropriate legal action against the person in the video".
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