Munawar Faruqui should not have cracked a joke on Hindu deities, if he did. It is objectionable. What was he thinking? That too in a ‘rashtra’ that’s going from secular to Hindu.
But in a nation where every second person’s second word in a conversation is choicest abusing in the name of mother or sister, isn’t it bizarre that we don’t take offence to our daily vulgarities? Instead, we choose to have over-the-top reactions when we watch movies, TV shows, stand-up acts, songs and paintings that we may not agree with, and find offensive.
What’s happening in Munnawar Faruqui’s case is a clear witch-hunt, except the idea here is to unnerve a specific community and not just the individual.
No bail for being Munawar
It is no one’s problem that he was arrested for allegedly making objectionable jokes. Law must take its course. The issue here is his continued arrest as though he is a hardened criminal. This, in a country where people facing grave charges of rape and murder also get bail. Think Chinmayanand and Manu Sharma. But Munawar has been kept in jail for 25 days now. For what? Playing on the lyrics of ‘Mera Piya Ghar Aaya O Ramji’?
But of course, a Muslim columnist (who had objected to the caricature of Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo) defending the likes of Faruqui would come across as hypocritical. However, it must be reminded that Muslims never condoned those killings in the name of cartoons, but strictly criticised the caricatures of the Prophet. You may argue, Munnawar did crack jokes last year and did offend sensibilities and ‘asked for it’. But bail is his basic legal right, and the case against him is not a non-bailable offence. If he isn’t following the law (of causing religious hurt), then neither are you, by defending his 25-day custody. It’s like giving out a message, setting him as an example — don’t mess with ‘Hindu sentiments’, rather don’t mess with Hindutva.
Examples are made out of the likes of Munawar Faruqui to keep the fires of Hindutva fuelled.
Denying bail to Munavar Faruqi is meant to have a chilling effect across the entertainment industry. Just like the furore against Tandav will be. First, there was political capture (every party is practising soft Hindutva today; you can’t imagine any neta calling the Ramayana a mythological fiction as T.R. Baalu did during the Ram Setu days). Then, there was a capture of the media. Then the big Bollywood industry was silenced by going after those who spoke about the Narendra Modi government or intolerance. Now, it is OTT platforms, comedians. The effort is to ensure nobody speaks against Hindutva or the government on any public platform.
The idea that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is checking Muslims and keeping them in line panders to the very insecurities created within the majority community — of being attacked and taken advantage of by the minority. Munawar Faruqui is just another peg in the propaganda machinery of ‘Hindu Khatre mein hain’. Ali Abbas Zafar, director of web series Tandav has also been summoned by the cops for hurting Hindu sentiments. The pattern is fixed — Hindu sentiments are hurt by Muslims. Add to this, the ‘love jihad’ trope and you have an entire circus of ‘minority out there to bully and dominate majority’.
Making an example out of him
If anything, Munawar Faruqui has tried to overcome his tough circumstances. A boy who comes from a difficult household where his mother died by suicide, Faruqui went out there to establish a stand-up career for himself, paying money at open-mics to get a slot to perform. In fact, Munawar is the poster boy of a modern young Muslim man who is unconventional (seeking a career in stand-up comedy), aspirational and sees himself beyond his religious identity. And yes, in the process of making a career for himself and get noticed, he ended up making a mistake, allegedly. But to vilify him and make an example out of him, especially because he is a Muslim, just to satiate the Hindutva palate, is inhuman.
Four others — Prakhar Vyas, Nalin Yadav, Pratik Vyas and Edwin Anthony — were also arrested in this episode. But no one is bothered about them — because only a man with a Muslim name can be worth the outrage.
The author is a political observer and writer. Views are personal.