Justice Markandey Katju: Cracking jokes in India can be dangerous

Justice Markandey Katju

By Justice Markandey Katju-

(Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own)

In India, cracking jokes publicly or on social media can be dangerous, as most Indians have little or no sense of humor, and most have a short fuse.

I first realized this when I said in a lighter vein on Facebook many years ago that since Pakistanis want Kashmir, we should offer it to them on the condition that they take Bihar along with it, too.

Anyone with even a little common sense could understand that this statement was a joke. After all, who was I, a retired person, to offer Bihar to Pakistan? And could it be offered at all?

But no. It was taken seriously, and treated as a great insult to Bihar.

A big hue and cry was raised against me by many Biharis. Processions were taken out against me in many cities in Bihar. My portraits were blackened, my effigies were burnt, and if I had been present in Bihar, I may have been burnt too.

Not to be left behind, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, that trapeze artist who keeps swinging from party to party, depending on which way the political wind is blowing, condemned me for insulting the ‘gauravshaali itihaas’ of Bihar. An FIR making a sedition charge against me was filed by a Bihar JDU leader.

Ultimately, I decided to apologize to Biharis (for cracking a joke).

After this incident, some Odias asked me to write something about Odisha. I wrote this on my Facebook page:
”I was asked to write about the Oriyas (Odias). What is there to write about these poor chaps? Ever since they got a thrashing at the hands of Emperor Ashoka in the battle of Kalinga, they have been a dejected lot. Now all they have with them are a lot of pots (Patras), big pots (Mahapatras), and supposedly intelligent kings (Patnaiks). And of course, they have Lord Jaggannath, to whom they pray every day for revenge on the abominable Biharis. Hari Om
P.S.: Odias, this is just a joke, so don’t file a case against me.”

I specifically mentioned at the end of my post that this was just a joke, so that a defamation case is not filed against me.
But again there was a hue and cry, this time by Odias, for being ‘insulted’.

Some Odia youth of Delhi came to my Noida flat and gave me a ‘get well soon’ card. Again I apologized.

Some other jokes I cracked on many Indian communities can be read here.

Another example is of a joke I cracked about Chaturvedis. Chaturvedis claim to be Brahmins, but traditionally a Chaturvedi boy can only marry a Chaturvedi girl. Other Brahmins of North India such as Shukla, Mishra, Dwivedi, Trivedi, Pandey, Vajpayi, etc, do not marry a Chaturvedi.

So I cracked a joke that Chaturvedis are not Brahmins at all, but are Greeks that have descended from the soldiers of the army of Alexander the Great, who invaded India in 326 B.C.

This created a furore among Chaturvedis all over India who were very upset, and I had to apologize to them, clarifying that I was only joking.

Mimicry by Kalyan Banerji, Member of Parliament of the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha ( Upper House of the Indian Parliament ) Jagdeep Dhankhar, has resulted in a criminal case registered against him, cartoon of Mamata Banerji by Prof Ambikesh Mahapatra of Jadavpur University resulted in his arrest, as was cartoons by cartoonist Asim Trivedi.

To conclude, let me tell this joke on myself. I am a Brahmin, and I once said ”Brahman 60 saal tak ponga rehta hai,
aur uske baad sathiya jaata hai.” Translated, it means: A Brahman is a fool till 60, after which he becomes senile.

Those Brahmins who have no sense of humor will surely file a defamation case against me. My defense will be that since I am 78, I am senile, hence non-compos mentis!

Related posts