File photo | Adrima Joshua | Twitter/@Agrimonious
File photo | Adrima Joshua | Twitter/@Agrimonious
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What does it take to become a woman comedian in India who cracks political jokes? There is no punchline. Instead, there are threats, abuses and social media hate campaigns. Mumbai-based stand-up comic Agrima Joshua’s year-old joke on Chhatrapati Shivaji’s upcoming statue in Maharashtra, and not the man himself, followed a familiar trajectory. There were rape and death threats after the jokes resurfaced, forcing Joshua to issue an apology for her ‘behaviour’ and take down the ‘offensive’ video. It proves yet again that safe space for a woman in India, both online and off it, is a phantasm, a myth.

Finally, after much criticism and public outrage, Shubham Mishra, who had openly called for raping the comedian on social media, was arrested and charged by the Vadodara City Police on Sunday.

Agrima needs to be ‘taught a lesson’

Women with political views on social media are no stranger to threats — rape or death. After all, women are just their reproductive organs.

Following Joshua’s video resurfacing, Shubham Mishra, whose Instagram bio defines him as ‘bekhauf bindaas bebaak’, posted a video last week wherein he hurled the vilest of abuses at not only Agrima Joshua but also her mother and sister, because it is a matter of parenting that leads a woman astray after all.

His lack of fear about describing in graphic detail how he would rape Agrima to ‘teach her a lesson’ is directly proportionate to how Agrima’s apology seems to come more from concern for her personal safety rather than her comedy content.

But Shubham Mishra wasn’t the only one, several men posted similar threats to defend Shivaji.


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The ‘offensive’ video

One look at Agrima’s video made me realise there is nothing offensive about what she says. She does not target Shivaji the personality, but the building of a massive statue for him using funds that can be put to better use elsewhere.

A statue is not a person, and yet those who launched a hate campaign against the comic seem unable to grasp this.

When the construction of the Statue of Unity was going on, many pointed out that the money could have been better spent—the very foundation of a democracy lies in being able to have the freedom to voice dissent.

But clearly, Agrima’s sarcasm was lost, more so because she happens to be a woman, and needs to be shown her ‘real’ place.

Agrima’s retreat

But this is a ‘success’ story in the end. Justice will prevail. Home minister of Maharashtra Anil Deshmukh was quick to tell the cyber cell to take action against Joshua for her comments on Shivaji (the statue had been forgotten). It took some more goading before Deshmukh later said that action will also be taken against those issuing threats to Joshua because “Shivaji Maharaj taught us to respect women”.

However, the wheels of ‘justice’ had already been set in motion. Many decided the owners of the place where Joshua performed the ‘offensive’ gig have to be taught a lesson as well. Workers of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena on Friday vandalised Indie Habitat.

Under such circumstances, what choice exactly did Agrima have but to apologise?

While comedians Kunal Kamra, Mallika Dua and actor Swara Bhasker came out strongly against Shubham Mishra’s video, and the National Commission for Women wrote to the Gujarat police to take action, the damage, in a way, was already done.


Also read: Waah Kunal Kamra Waah: A comedian’s standup act kick-starts a liberal heckling wave in India


The myth of ‘safe online space’

Agrima’s battle is the battle of every opinionated woman in India. A few days ago, journalist Rana Ayyub posted screenshots of several death and rape threats she got after calling out the killing of 65-year old Bashir Ahmad Khan in Jammu and Kashmir.

Former Bigg Boss contestant Vikas Pathak, popularly known as ‘Hindustani Bhau’ gave rape threats to producer Ekta Kapoor, her mother and her son because he felt an episode in her AltBalaji web series XXX 2 disrespected the Army.

Ekta however stood her ground, and refused to comply with the cyberbullying. But Ekta’s power and wealth can still shield her from the threat turning into reality, or of state persecution.

Agrima Joshua does not have that privilege, neither do a lot of women who hold opinions that ‘hurt’ sentiments of one or the other powerful, deeply patriarchal group.


Also read: Comedy to life hacks: 5 women YouTube stars Indians can’t get enough of


When women are encouraged to fight, I am reminded of an Instagram post by actress Poorna Jagannathan. She wrote, “You can’t call out celebs without acknowledging that rape culture online is terrifying and no one is doing anything about it. That death threats can get to you and you weigh the cost of speaking out vs. your mental health.”

No matter what you think of Joshua’s past tweets, which have also resurfaced now, you don’t need to be her fan to know rape threats are wrong.

And not every woman can fight till the end, not because she does not want to, but if rape/death/potential loss of career or income is the other choice, the option becomes excruciatingly clear.

Views are personal.

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16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. So technically anyone can make fun of us and can call themselves creative , secular and atlast an Indian but are not ready to utter a word against Muslims/islam ? Gupta sir you say good journalism , and is this a good journalism ? Don’t you think you lean more towards these anti nationals?

  2. A Democracy that does not know where to draw the line soon turns into a black hole where opposing opinions both carrying placards claiming FOE disappear and leave behind the sum total of their hatreds for those left behind to contend with. For example, the Agrima and PETA controversy. When the dust settles after the ongoing battle of words, I doubt whether it will leave us in a better place by enriching our national discourse so that we might confront other burning issues with equanimity and the wisdom of hindsight. Instead each side will entrench itself more firmly, eagerly waiting for the next burning issue to get even with in case they had lost the last round. And on and on and on…..

    Multi-culturalism is becoming the norm globally. If the preaching and practice of restraint does not inform and guide all aspects of our social, political and economic lives, what hope is there ? We might as well cancel each other out like peeling an onion until nothing remains except wending our way back to the forests and mountains from whence we came carrying the banner of civilisation

  3. A Democracy that does not know where to draw the line soon turns into a black hole where opposing opinions both carrying placards claiming FOE disappear and leave behind the sum total of their hatreds for those left behind to contend with. For example, the Agrima and PETA controversy. When the dust settles after the ongoing battle of words, I doubt whether it will leave us in a better place by enriching our national discourse so that we might confront other burning issues with equanimity and the wisdom of hindsight. Instead each side will entrench itself more firmly, eagerly waiting for the next burning issue to get even with in case they had lost the last round. And on and on and on…..

    Multi-culturalism is becoming the norm globally. If the preaching and practice of restraint does not inform and guide all aspects of our social, political and economic lives, what hope is there ? We might as well cancel each other out like peeling an onion until nothing remains except wending our way back to the forests and mountains from whence we came carrying the banner of civilisation.

  4. Arrey wo author jiji,

    Jab tumhare website Ka naam pada tabhi pata chal gaya ki, meri pyaari author jiji Kya hug ne wali hai..
    Meri bhen, comedy wo hota hai jisse, bahut logo ke takleef dur Kar unhe hasaya jata hai, na ki unki bezzati kar, unke feeling to hurt Kiya jata ho..
    Agar yeh sab comedians unke supporters ke Amma bawa ko Gali deke comedy karte thy na, mirchi lagti thi Swara jiji ko, Kunal kamra chacha ko, aapko bhi jiji..

  5. LOL miss TINA DAS
    in gaming language you are a NOOB

    baad me gayi teri Joshua

    To hell with you who supports jokes on Hindus

    BBYE

  6. There you go – bringing a ‘feminist’ twist to the story. This is what you all do where you don’t have any constructive view to defend yourself. Poor soul!

  7. There is no issue in doing stand up comedy or jokes, but just for the sake for laugh of 15 to 20 people sitting in front of you.. you decide to hurt the feelings and beliefs of thousands and lakhs of people… It is not the matter of making jokes on gods or religion, you making the joke of faith and belief of people, it hurts them emotionally and make them sad and angry. Stand up comedy was there from 90’s but then nobody made jokes on religion or faith. And why jokes on one particular faith or religion. And this author is just giving women angle to this story. There is no male and female here its about a person said something to hurt other persons feelings.

  8. Proselytizers are using various mediums to attack HINDUS and HINDU hate is being taken to new levels on social media and legal action taken against abusive proselytizers is made out to be anti democratic.

  9. IMHO there is no male vs female angle here that the author is so desperate to bring out. The issue here is whether or not a comedian (make, female, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, straight, gay, white black etc.) has the right to make fun of Hindu Gods? The answer is a resounding no. Doesn’t look like the stand up comedian community has generally got a hang of this, therefore the threat. Very recently a Bengali comedian was beaten up by MNS for similar homes on Chatrapati Shivaji maharaj. As I said there is no male female angle here….. But…. if hammer is all you have, every problem will look like a nail!!

  10. Totally agree with the author but I don’t agree with Ranjan and sKK. Nobody should be terrorised with physical harm and what has Christianity got to do with the incident (in response to the comment). Don’t Indians have dreams of working and settling abroad and being a minority in those western countries. Most of my friends abroad want date white women. If we can live and work with beef eaters and non Hindus abroad, why do we treat these Indian Christians, our own people, with so much contempt and disgust. Talk about the height of hypocrisy!! Threats of rape and murder should be taken seriously. These are not flippant remarks.

  11. While issuing rape threats is disgusting, so are rape jokes. The lady in question has stated that she enjoys rape jokes. Secondly, there is a growing impression backed by evidence that such comics and stand up artists only target the Hindu community and their icons. In case of muslims such liberties are not taken for obvious reasons. And if Christians feel offended, apologies are tendered to the Archbishops. It is these double standards that has led to hardening of stands.

    • 100% true. No comedian ever mocks Islam for obvious reasons. If a rare comedian insults Christianity, they apologize. But when it comes to Hinduism alone, all comedians think it is a free-for-all. This double standard is what is pushing Hindus to become more aggressive. Either the comedians should mock all religions equally, or not at all. Hinduism is not everyone’s whipping boy.

  12. Dear Author,
    I’m genuinely interested to know in which country (or rather, on which planet) have you been living? Why are we beating a dead horse? Social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, is a GUTTER! Actually much worse – A Landfill of DEAD, DECOMPOSING BRAINS. Always have been, always will be. People who rely on it are narcissistic apes, nothing more! Shubham Mishra is a piece of dry faeces, with a smartphone, which happens the most wicked invention in the history of the planet. How much more proof do we need that the vast majority of human beings are nothing more than slightly less hairy chimpanzees who do not deserve the right to be looked at, let alone be given a tool to write opinions on the internet. Would you ever hand a slingshot (Gulail) to a Bandar? DISENGAGE FROM SOCIAL MEDIA.

    • I agree with homo sapiams. Worst thing happened with the advent of technology is mentally challenged people like him got a platform of world wide reach. Forgive me for being too general but people suck big time.

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