Mumbai-based stand-up comedian Agrima Joshua on Saturday apologised after a controversy erupted over allegations of her insulting Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
In a one-year-old video, which has been widely shared on social media, Joshua jokes about the Maharashtra government’s Shivaji statue project in the Arabian Sea. She refers to what was said about the statue on the knowledge-sharing website Quora. “This Shivaji statue is an amazing masterstroke by Prime Minister Modi Ji,” Joshua says. “It will have solar cells which will power all of Maharashtra...It will also have GPS tracker...”
The video was part of a sketch Joshua had performed in April 2019 at a comedy and music cafe in Khar (West), according to The Indian Express. Angry social media users also began sharing details of employees of the cafe. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena activists allegedly barged into the cafe early on Saturday and damaged the stage and furniture in one of its performance rooms.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has instructed the police to take legal action against the comedian. “I have instructed CP [Commissioner of Police] Mumbai and IG [Inspector General] Cyber to take legal action expeditiously,” he tweeted. “I urge everyone to maintain calm and law will take its course.”
Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik wrote to Deshmukh, seeking action against Joshua for allegedly making “contemptuous comments” against the warrior king. “Some comedian named Agrima Joshua has made contemptuous comments against Shivaji Maharaj while presenting comedy,” he said. “I saw the video and I feel she either doesn’t respect Shivaji Maharaj or she doesn’t know about him. I have also written to the home minister demanding her arrest.”
The legislator from Thane also warned that if she uses Shivaji Maharaj’s name to earn money, the ruling state government will not tolerate it.
After the outrage, Joshua issued an apology on Twitter. “I am sorry for having hurt the sentiments of the many followers of the great leader Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj,” she said. “My heartfelt apologies to followers of the great leader, who I sincerely respect. The video has already been taken down. Please amplify.”
The stand-up comedian also tagged Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray and claimed that Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT cell has “unleashed a bunch of trolls”.
On Saturday, the cafe issued a statement about the vandalism at the venue. “To put forth a message, we devote our lives to finding creative expression,” it said. “Not towards acts of barbaric violence or mindless sharing of violence.”
Here are some of the reactions on Joshua’s video: