iNDICA NEWS BUREAU
A group of young South Asian-American comedians have come together to perform a virtual comedy show to show solidarity with and demand the release from custody of an Indian standup artist held in Indore, Madhya Pradesh.
The show, titled The Right to Laugh, will see rising comedians will showcase their talents while also calling attention to “the injustice that Faruqui has been facing for the past month,” the e-vite for the show says.
“On January 1, Indian comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested for jokes he didn’t even tell. One month later, he is still in jail,” it points out.
The invite quotes BBC India correspondent Soutik Biswas as saying: “On the evening of 1 January, he [Faruqui] was kicking off a 14-city tour with a ticketed show in a café in the central Indian city of Indore. A leader of a local Hindu fringe group had arrived and stopped the show, complaining that the comic was ‘insulting’ Hindu religious sentiments.”
However, Faruqui hadn’t even told a single joke.
“Nevertheless, the mere suspicion that Faruqui ‘was going to’ tell an offensive joke was enough for the Indore police to arrest him,” the Right to Laugh invite says.
Faruqui and four of his friends — Nalin Yadav, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas and Edwin Anthony — were arrested that night, and Sadakat Khan, another friend of Faruqui, was arrested the following day.
Lower courts in Madhya Pradesh have refused to grant Faruqui bail.
“Faruqui’s arrest has to be seen as part of a longer trend of artists, activists, and religious minorities being targeted by the Hindu right and the Hindu nationalist BJP-led government of India,” the invite for the Right to Laugh event says.
It quotes Furquan Ameen of Al Jazeera as reporting that “Over the past few years, several Indian comics have faced police cases or mob threats for allegedly harming religious or other sentiments, with many saying the pattern indicates the shrinking of freedom of speech in the country.”
The Right to Laugh, the South Asian American comedians said, is their response to Fauqui’s ordeal.
Performers will include Myesha Chowdury, Sai D, Abby Govindan, Pallavi Gunalan, Apoorva Gundeti, Masood Haque, Rishi Mahesh, Yamini Nambimadom, and Amar Risbud. Award-winning poet, filmmaker, educator and performer Fatimah Asghar will be the MC.
The show will take place on Saturday, February 6, 2021, at 12 pm ET / 5 pm GMT / 10:30 pm IST.
The show will be live-streamed on Facebook and YouTube, and attendees can register at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-right-to-laugh-comedy-show-in-solidarity-with-munawar-faruqui-tickets-139268831825
The show is being organized by Reclaiming India, which calls itself a joint initiative of the global Indian diaspora, representing diverse voices, issues, identities, and their intersections.
“We have strong roots in the country of our origin and stand by the Constitution of India. The core members of Reclaiming India are Dalit Solidarity Forum, Global Indian Progressive Alliance, Hindus for Human Rights, India Civil Watch International, Indian American Muslim Council, and Students Against Hindutva Ideology,” the organizers said.
The Philadelphia-based Progressive India Collective is cosponsoring this event.