“If the country’s youth can decide who to vote, they can also decide what to watch”. This is what stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui told NDTV days after three shows in Mumbai featuring him were cancelled. These shows were cancelled due to threats from Bajrang Dal. Mr. Faruqui was in jail for a month earlier this year. He was in custody regarding a case accusing him of “insulting Hindu gods and goddesses“. He said that he is not being allowed to work even after the Supreme Court granted him bail. “I get 50 threat calls daily, I had to change my SIM card thrice. When my number gets leaked, people call up and abuse me,” he said.
The Mumbai shows were cancelled after members of the right-wing group threatened to burn down the venues of the show. Announcing the cancellations, Mr Faruqui had tweeted about the safety of the audience. He said that the safety of the audience matters the most to him. “What is happening is unfortunate. Lots of wrongs are happening in this country. The bigger issue is that for these three shows, a total of 1,500 people bought tickets a month ago. I feel bad for them. This is a sad reality with which many people in this country are living,” he said. “I used to think sometimes that maybe I am wrong, but after what has happened, I have understood that some people are trying to gain political advantage out of this,” he added.
The comic said, “everyone is targeted”. In his case, they used religion and that scared him even more, he said. Mr Faruqui said that following his arrest and bail, he has performed in 50 shows. If it was calculated, it would be seen that in 90 per cent of them, he got a standing ovation. “The audience doesn’t care who belongs to which religion or caste. There are no comments on any religion in my shows,” he said. The stand-up artiste said Bajrang Dal members are targeting him by circulating a 10-seconds clip from a two-hour show. Faruqui said that the Bajrang Dal members showed the clip entirely out of context and said that he has insulted the Hindu gods.
Mr Faruqui said 80 people earn a livelihood from a single show, including drivers, volunteers and guards. “These are people who have been jobless for the past one-and-a-half years. I feel bad for them,” he said when asked about them by the press. The comic said he told venue owners that there is nothing problematic in his content and they need not be afraid. But if someone threatens that they will burn the place down, vandalise it, he will think if he will organize the show or not. If he was being threatened, it was a wrong move because India is a free country. “Hate won, so the shows got cancelled. But till when? We will win,” he said, adding that he will “continue to spread smiles“.