Police complaints were filed against stand-up comedian Vir Das in Mumbai and Delhi as the sharp debate on his video I come from two Indias on November 17 mirrored the polarity of the monologue itself with celebs, politicians and a host of others speaking out.
The satirist, who has issued a statement saying his comments weren’t intended to insult the country, found backing from Trinamool member Mahua Moitra as well as Congress leaders Kapil Sibal and Shashi Tharoor. However, their fellow politician Abhishek Manu Singhvi criticised him for “vilifying the nation” and actor Kangana Ranaut stepped in too to demand strict action against the comedian.
And moving from just polemics, Delhi BJP vice-president Aditya Jha and Mumbai lawyer Ashutosh J. Dubey went to the police with their complaints. While Mr. Jha alleged that Mr. Das made “derogatory” statements at an international platform with an intention to malign the country’s image, Mr. Dubey also held him responsible “for defaming & spoiling the image of India in the USA, which is inflammatory”. No FIRs have been filed as yet.
Mr. Das, who is in the U.S. right now, uploaded on November 15 a six-minute video on YouTube titled I come from two Indias . It is part of his recent performance at the John F. Kennedy Centre in Washington D.C.
The Mumbai-based artiste, who has also dabbled in cinema, touched on various topics in the clip, including the farm protests, the battle against COVID-19, the duality in response to women, particularly rape, and the crackdown on comedians.
As the issue gathered steam, Mr. Sibal on November 17 tweeted that none can doubt that there are two Indias. “…Just that we don’t want an Indian to tell the world about it. We are intolerant and hypocritical," he tweeted.
Mr. Tharoor praised Mr. Das as a stand-up comedian who knows that the real meaning of the term "stand up" is not physical but moral. Mr. Das spoke for millions in the six-minute take on the ‘Two Indias’ he hails from and stands up for, Mr. Tharoor tweeted late on November 16.
Tagging a tweet by a person who said he has filed a complaint against Mr. Das with the Mumbai Police, Mr. Tharoor said, "We know which India this comes from."
But Mr. Singhvi, Mr. Tahroor’s party colleague, hit out at Mr. Das, saying that "generalising the evils of a few individuals and vilifying the nation as a whole in front of the world is just not done". Using the hashtag #VirDas, the Rajya Sabha MP tweeted: "The people who painted India in front of the west as a nation of saperas and luteras during the colonial rule have not ceased to exist."
Ms. Moitra, the Trinamool MP, also backed the comedian, thanking him for speaking truth about ‘Two Indias’. She tweeted: “Reactions also from 2 Indias - one having a laugh & other filing complaints with police!”
There were also some voices of support from the Hindi film industry with filmmaker Hansal Mehta and actor-producer Pooja Bhatt hailing the comedian for his courage.
"I was moved by this @virdas. I come from an India where it needs courage for a Vir Das to say this, I come from an India where many admire this courage, yet choose to remain silent," the director said, sharing the comedian's stand up clip.
Ms. Bhatt responded to Mr. Mehta, saying, "You said it Hansal. I was not amused as much as I was moved-more by the audience that cheered with their heart for the India that chooses love over hate & shows great dignity & decency in the face of suffering & despair. One that can unashamedly cry for itself yet laugh at itself." There were plenty of voices on the other side too, reflecting the deep schisms in the discourse.
Ms. Ranaut, known for her often incendiary comments and facing a backlash for her comment that India’s Independence was alms , said Mr. Das’ remarks were “soft terrorism”.
Comparing Mr. Das’ remarks to Winston Churchill's infamous comments after the Bengal famine, she said, "When you generalise all Indian men as gang rapists it gives rise and encouragement to racism and bullying against Indians all over the world."
Tagging Mr. Das on her Insta stories, Ms. Ranaut posted: "He blamed Indians sex drive/fertility for the death millions because of hunger... Such creative work targeting an entire race is soft terrorism... strict action must be taken against such criminals."
Sharing her views, Mr. Jha, the Delhi BJP vice-president, lodged a complaint at the New Delhi district police station against the “derogatory” statements. "We have received a complaint in this regard and it is being inquired," Deputy Commissioner of Police (New Delhi) Deepak Yadav said, adding that no FIR has been registered yet.
Mr. Dubey, the Mumbai lawyer, whose Twitter bio says that he is the legal advisor of BJP-Maharashtra Palghar district, posted that he has filed a complaint against the comedian with the Mumbai Police. Mr. Dubey also criticised Mr. Tharoor for supporting Mr. Das and shared a tweet by BJP leader Kapil Mishra, who hailed Mr. Dubey for using “constitutional measures to stop hate against India”.
A section on Twitter posted clips and pictures from his monologue, many picking on what he said about women — "I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang-rape them during the night." During his monologue on November 15, Mr. Das had predicted he would be accused of “airing their dirty laundry”.
On November 16, he issued a clarification, saying his intention was to serve a reminder that the country, despite its issues, was “great”.
"Please do not be fooled by edited snippets. People cheer for India with hope, not hate. People clap for India with respect, not malice. You cannot sell tickets, earn applause, or represent great people with negativity, only with pride. I take pride in my country, and I carry that pride across the world," Mr. Das said.
The 42-year-old said his video is a satire about the duality of two very separate Indias that do different things.
“Like any nation has light and dark, good and evil within it. None of this is a secret. The video appeals for us to never forget that we are great. To never stop focusing on what makes us great.”