Stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui on November 28 hinted that he may not do any more shows, a day after his scheduled event in Bengaluru was cancelled. Police had "advised" the organisers to call it off citing possible law and order problems. Earlier, his shows have been cancelled in other cities on similar grounds.
City police had said that the organisers of the event, scheduled to be held on November 28 evening, “should cancel the show”, as several groups are opposed it and this “could create chaos and could disturb the public peace and harmony, which may further lead to law and order problems”. The police issued the letter on November 27 night.
Mr. Faruqui who had come to the city for the show, left on November 28 morning after posting a statement on his social media handles, hinting at quitting the space. Lamenting how he was jailed for a joke he did not do and of 12 shows being cancelled in the last two months because of threats to venue and audience, he wrote: “I think this is the end. My name is Munawar Faruqui and that’s been my time, you guys were a wonderful audience. Goodbye! I am done.”
Organisers of the November 28 event said Mr. Faruqui felt dejected at how he is being systematically targeted. Mr. Faruqui was himself not available for further comment.
Mr. Faruqui was arrested in Indore in January earlier this year after a Hindutva right wing activist alleged he denigrated Hindu gods. He spent 37 days in jail before the Supreme Court granted him bail.
Bengaluru Police cancelling the show comes close on the heels of 12 shows of the comic being similarly cancelled by the police in Maharashtra and Gujarat this month alone, following a campaign by Hindutva right wing organisations calling for a ban on the artiste and threatening protests if his shows are held.
The city police move has come under severe criticism by rights activists in the city. “It is sad that a systematic campaign by Hindutva groups has scuttled a comedian, just because of his religion,” said advocate-activist Vinay Sreenivasa. “It is sad to note that a threat of a protest leads to stifling of freedom of expression in this city. Some groups cannot hold the city to ransom. Society needs to stand by the artist,” said human rights advocate B.T. Venkatesh.
In the city, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, an organisation whose allegedly “erstwhile” members have been charged with the murder of editor-activist Gauri Lankesh and scholar M.M. Kalburgi, petitioned Bengaluru City Police Commissioner Kamal Pant on Saturday, tweeting out the letter tagging Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai, Home Minister Araga Jnanendra, Bengaluru South MP Tejaswi Surya, Uttara Kannada MP Anantkumar Hegde among others.
The petition said Mr. Faruqui is in the habit of making “unacceptable” jokes on “Hindu Gods, Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2020, Godhra massacre of Karsevaks”. “Allowing Munawar Faruqui, who hurts religious sentiments of Hindus, is providing an opportunity for him to repeat those crimes.” It further asked, “Should such a programme that disturbs the communal harmony be allowed when the memories of DJ Halli riots are still fresh?" They threatened to take to the streets if the stand-up show is allowed to be held.
Hours later Ashok Nagar police issued the letter to the organisers “advising” them that they “should cancel the show”. The letter, though doesn’t mention the HJS petition, says they have credible information that several organisations are opposing the show. The organisers had informed Ashok Nagar police of the show “Dongri to Nowhere” in a letter on November 15, as they need not take permission since it is an indoors show, and the police had not taken objection to the same till HJS petitioned the police. Sources in the police said that they were pulled up for “not cancelling the show earlier” and were asked to cancel it immediately. Senior police officials refused to comment.
Mohan Gowda, spokesperson, Hindu Janjagruti Samiti, Karnataka, tweeted on November 28 morning thanking Commissioner Pant, DG & IGP Praveen Sood, Mr. Bommai and Mr. Jnanendra “for cancelling anti-Hindu Munawar Faruqui programme in Bengaluru”.