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“Beaten, Slapped” Audience at Comedian Munawar Faruqui’s Show Say Indore Police Just Watched

Source : Munawar Faruqui's Twitter
Audience members at stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui’s show have said they were manhandled by associates of local BJP legislator Malini Laxman Singh Gaur’s son Eklavya Gaur Singh on January 1 at The Monroe Cafe in Indore. They also say that the Indore police present there took no steps to stop the attacks.
Munawar Faruqui was apprehended at the beginning of the show, and subsequently arrested after Eklavya Gaur Singh filed a complaint against him at the Tukaganj Police Station.
In his complaint, Eklavya Gaur Singh said that Faruqui had hurt his religious sentiments and made indecent remarks about Hindu deities and against Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
Although the police have issued a statement to say they could not find any video relevant to the complaint, Faruqui continues to remain in jail, along with co-accused and event coordinator Edwin Anthony, and Indore-based comedians Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas and Nalin Yadav. His bail plea has been denied twice thus far.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, one audience member told Silverscreen India that the altercation began just after Faruqui introduced himself, when Eklavya Gaur Singh went up to the stage and accused him of hurting his “religious sentiments”.
He said, “As soon as he [Faruqui] came on stage, a group of around ten people came inside the hall, scaring the audience a little. I was sitting in the front row. I instantly wore my face mask thinking that it might be some kind of administrative check for Covid-19. One of them, Mr. Eklavya Gaur, took the mic from Munawar [Faruqui] and started talking to the audience about what is currently being shown on some news and Youtube channels.”
He said, “A few people interrupted Mr. Gaur and said that ‘we are here for Munawar and not you’.”

According to the source, Faruqui requested Gaur to first watch the show, and assured him that it wouldn’t hurt his sentiments. However, Gaur and a few of his associates left the hall while the others remained. Faruqui then began his set with an episode about him visiting Delhi to attend his friend’s wedding.

Picture source: Twitter

Within a few minutes, however, the event organiser came rushing in with “teary eyes” along with the owner of the cafe, said the source. Faruqui was told that the show had to be cancelled, as the situation was worsening outside. Both the organiser and the owner of the cafe promised to ensure the audience and Faruqui’s safety.

“But as soon as the audience started leaving the hall, that group outside started bashing the audience. After that all of us, including me and Munawar, rushed to the other exit. However, they were there as well. They were beating and slapping the audience, especially those who had raised their voice in favour of Munawar earlier inside the hall,” he said.

According to the source, the police present at the cafe took no action against the attackers.

“Afterwards, the audience was pushed out of the cafe, while they held back Munawar. Some 20 minutes later, Munawar, the police and those people came downstairs and boarded the police vehicle and left for the thana,” said the source.

He said, “The way that group acted – manhandling the audience and Munawar cannot be justified on any ground whatsoever.”

In a short video clip, recorded anonymously by one of the audience members and posted by musician Madara on his Instagram, Gaur is seen questioning Faruqui for joking about the Godhra case, and asking him why he doesn’t joke about his own religion. Faruqui is seen explaining that he had apologised after that video, and that he had made jokes about Islam in the past. Even as the audience can be heard cheering, Gaur is heard reiterating that his sentiments were hurt, and that he would not allow anybody to do anything in the name of freedom of expression/speech.

Photo Source: Twitter. Cropped
While filing the complaint, Gaur said, “When I heard about Munawar’s show, I bought a ticket and went to see it. As expected, he was insulting Hindu deities and also mocked Home Minister Amit Shah by dragging his name with Godhra riots.”
The following day, a video that was widely circulated on social media showed Faruqui’s friend Sadakat Khan being abused and beaten in front of the police. Khan was subsequently arrested.
The five accused have been booked under section 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), section 269 (unlawful or negligent act likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life), and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

Faruqui and the four co-accused were denied bail for a second time on January 5 by a court in Madhya Pradesh after the Additional District and Sessions Court judge Yatindra Kumar Guru rejected their bail plea. The court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate had rejected their bail plea on January 2, reported by Live Law.

When contacted by Silverscreen India, the Thana in-charge of the Tukoganj police station was unavailable for comment.

Many comedians, politicians, and journalists have expressed solidarity with Faruqui over social media. These include comedians Varun Grover, Samay Raina, and Aditi Mittal, comedian-actor Vir Das, actor Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, writer and poet Hussain Haidry, the national spokesperson of INC Shama Mohamed, Karnataka Congressman Srivatsa, actor Kubbra Sait, political satirist Akash Banerjee, and journalist Vir Sanghvi.

This is one in a series of attacks and court cases against comedians and artists who have lampooned the government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. Most recently, comedian Kunal Kamra and cartoonist Rachita Taneja faced contempt of court. On 12 July 2020, Shubham Mishra, a Gujarat resident, was arrested by the Vadodara police for abusing and issuing rape threats to comedian Agrima Joshua in a video that went viral across several social media platforms, according to a report by The Wire.

In addition to comedians, films have been under scrutiny. In November 2020, Director SS Rajamouli‘s period drama Roudhram Ranam Rudhiram (RRR) was targeted by Telangana BJP state president and Karimnagar MP Bandi Sanjay Kumar, who threatened to burn down theatres if the film depicted protagonist Komaram Bheem wearing a skullcap.

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