Indore/Delhi: The arrest of comedian Munawar Faruqui in Indore for allegedly making indecent remarks against Hindu deities was the result of an “elaborate plan” by the Hind Rakshak Sangathan (HRS) that wanted to “catch him in action”, Aklavya Singh Gaur, the chief of the Indore-based organisation and son of BJP MLA Malini Gaur, has told ThePrint.
Set up in 1996 by Aklavya’s father, the late Madhya Pradesh minister Laxman Singh Gaur, the HRS describes itself as an organisation dedicated to protecting the nation, religion, and culture.
Aklavya, who claims to be a member of the BJP youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), is the complainant in the case that led to the arrest of Faruqui and four other stand-up comedians on 1 January for allegedly insulting Hindu deities and others.
The jokes were allegedly cracked at a New Year event at Cafe Munroe in Indore’s 56 Dukan area.
While Aklavya claims Faruqui made indecent remarks against Hindu deities, Union Minister Amit Shah, and the Gujarat riots, the comedian denies the charge.
Faruqui has filed a petition in the Madhya Pradesh High Court to challenge a trial court’s 5 January order refusing him bail. The matter is listed for hearing Friday before the Indore bench of the high court, with Congress MP Vivek Tankha likely to argue for him.
He has challenged the FIR against him on three grounds, including that he never even got a chance to perform at the event.
Speaking to ThePrint, Gaur described Faruqui as a “serial offender”. He said he learnt about the New Year event beforehand and, along with a few others, decided to attend it as audience.
“He is a serial offender. This time, too, he made indecent comments against Hindu deities,” he added.
“We had got to know about the event beforehand and five-six of us decided to attend it as audience to catch him in action. We made a video of the event wherein stand-up comedian Faruqui, as expected, made indecent remarks against Hindu deities, Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He dragged Godhra riots in it, too,” he said, adding that he has submitted video footage of the event to police.
“Earlier, too, he had made fun of kar sevaks who died (in the Godhra train fire),” he said.
‘He never performed there’
The FIR against Faruqui, which has been accessed by ThePrint, invokes IPC sections dealing with hurting religious sentiments, and violating orders issued by a public authority (in connection with Covid-19 restrictions).
Among other things, he has been accused of displaying a condom, which the FIR describes as an “objectionable commodity”, in “public before an audience comprising women and children”.
The FIR also refers to footage that shows “Faruqui making fun of Lord Shiva, Ganesha, Kartikeya and Goddess Parvati”.
Police have booked the five comedians as organisers of the event.
In his petition before the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Faruqui has said he never uttered the lines mentioned in the FIR. He has raised a three-fold challenge to the case against him.
His lawyer Anshuman Srivastava told ThePrint that police have not scrutinised the video of the event because Faruqui never got a chance to perform there.
“Before he could speak, Gaur and his men stopped him and the video proves this fact. Also, he was trying to convince Gaur that he had not said anything to hurt the sentiments of the audience present there,” Srivastava said.
Gaur is believed to have referred to an earlier incident where Faruqui made remarks against Hindu deity Ram. In response to this, Faruqui told Gaur that he had apologised for the incident, a video of which was posted on his YouTube channel, the lawyer said.
The second ground for seeking bail is that the petitioners claim charges under Section 295A of IPC — “Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” — are not made out.
“There are no specific allegations mentioned in the FIR, such as what was the expression used or words spoken, to show that the charges fall within the basic ingredients of the penal provision,” said the lawyer.
Also, under Section 295A, there should be deliberate intention on the part of the accused to commit the crime, he added.
Faruqui, Srivastava said, never planned the show nor had any intention to insult anyone. The crowd was present there voluntarily and it was not a gathering at his instance, he added.
The third ground is that charges of violating an order by a public servant have been added beyond jurisdiction.
“Faruqui was not the organiser, therefore, he was not responsible for holding the event. Even if it is presumed that there was a breach of Covid-19 protocols, then there should have been a common FIR against all those present there as well as the owner of the place where the event took place,” Srivastava said.
According to Faruqui’s petition, which has been accessed by ThePrint, the charge of violating Covid-19 protocols against the five comedians does not hold ground because the accused were not the organisers of the event, but participated in the show as artistes.
According to the law, police should have booked the owner of the place where the event took place, which reportedly has not been done, Faruqui’s lawyer said.
Police say have ‘all the evidence’
Indore Superintendent of Police (SP) Vijay Khatri also denied the allegations made by Faruqui’s lawyer, saying police have all the evidence.
“Fake news is being spread that we don’t have evidence against them. We have all the evidence, which we will present to the court and not to the media. It is for the court to decide whether it is satisfied by that evidence or not,” he said.
“Some indecent comments against Hindu deities, jokes were cracked. We arrested the organisers, those who cracked the jokes, and those who were scheduled to perform,” he added.
Police, he said, had got a call from the audience that a ruckus was being created and it was a law-and-order situation in the cafe.
“We, in fact, saved these men (Faruqui and the others). Hind Rakashak Sanghathan’s Aklavya Singh Gaur has filed a complaint and submitted video footage, too, which is being examined,” Khatri said.
Referring to the charges about Covid-19 protocol violations, he added that no permission was taken by the organiser for the event despite the fact that Section 144 was in place in light of the pandemic.