Stand up comedian and writer Munawar Faruqui‘s upcoming shows in Mumbai have been cancelled, the comedian announced on Wednesday citing reasons of audience safety. Earlier, his Gujarat schedule had also been called off.
Faruqui wrote on social media that his upcoming Dongri to Nowhere shows in Mumbai on October 29, 30 and 31 are cancelled. “The safety of the audience is what matters most to me. I don’t want my audience to go through what I am experiencing.”
In September, Bajrang Dal, the Hindu nationalist militant organisation that forms the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), had said that it would not allow the comedian to perform in Gujarat and had threatened the organisers of the shows to cancel the scheduled shows or face consequences.
The owner of Rangshardha auditorium in Bandra, who was to host one of the shows, told The Indian Express that Bajrang Dal members from Gujarat had come down to Mumbai and threatened to burn the place down claiming that the show was “against Hindus.”
While another source mentioned that the owner of a Borivali hall had also faced the same from Bajrang Dal members, one of the organisers cited “tremendous pressure” from the police as a reason for cancelling the show. The police had allegedly served a notice that the owners would be booked in case of any disruption to law and order.
A notice accessed by the publication reportedly stated that the police had information that the show may contain content that may hurt religious sentiments and if any consequent problems arose in law and order, the police would take action against the organisers.
Faruqui was arrested on January 1 while performing at a show in Indore for allegedly “hurting religious sentiments.”
When performing at Indore’s Monroe Cafe, local BJP legislator Malini Laxman Singh Gaur’s son Aklavya Gaur Singh, who claimed to be the head of a youth organisation named Hind Rakshak, went on stage and disrupted the show. The comedian, and those in the audience who raised their voice in support of Faruqui, were manhandled.
Later, Faruqui, his friend Sadakat Khan, who was in the audience, three other comedians performing at the show and the event coordinator were all arrested.
Faruqui was accused of cracking jokes on Hindu deities, Godhra riots, and Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the show and was denied bail several times despite lack of video evidence.
Faruqui was finally granted interim bail by the Supreme Court on February 5 and released the following day.
#GoBckMunawar Campaign on Twitter
Soon after Faruqui had announced his upcoming shows in Mumbai on October 1, #GoBckMunawar had begun trending on Twitter.
Siddhant Mohite, whose bio reads “founder/president” of several organisations including a “Mumbai based Hindu organisation Saffron Think Tank,” was one of the first to start the trend calling him an “anti-Hindu comedian.” Mohite also shared a written complaint sent to the Mumbai Police, the Maharashtra government and the Home Ministry from “Saffron Think Tank” opposing Faruqui’s shows.
Following the shows’ cancellation announcement, Mohite shared the reply to his complaint from the Mumbai BMC regarding the cancellation.
Several other members of Hindu extremist organisations and BJP leaders also supported the trend.
Meanwhile, comedian Kunal Kamra came out in support of Faruqui and wrote, “It’s not that their voices are right/loud or more important to cancel shows. It’s just that your voice is nonexistent in favour of having shows. While it’s very evident who is not in favour of stand up comedy, sometimes I wonder if there’s someone in favour of this art-form.”