The Indore Police on Sunday said they had no video evidence to show that comedian Munawar Faruqui insulted Hindu deities during a performance at a cafe in the city, The Indian Express reported. Faruqui had been arrested on Friday for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.
Kamlesh Sharma, the town inspector of Tukaganj Police Station, told the newspaper that the video submitted by the complainant showed another comedian making jokes about the deity Ganesh. “There’s no evidence against him [Faruqui] for insulting Hindu deities or Union Minister Amit Shah,” Sharma said.
The complaint against Faruqui was filed by Eklavya Singh Gaur, the chief of Hindutva group Hind Rakshak Sangathan, according to reports. Gaur is the son of Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Malini Gaur. Faruqui was also accused of making derogatory remarks about Shah, and of allegedly mocking the kar sevaks who were killed in the Godhra massacre of 2002.
Meanwhile, several comedians spoke out against Faruqui’s arrest. “You can’t stop jokes and laughter,” actor and comedian Vir Das tweeted. “Not because comedians are performing it, but because people need to laugh. Harder you try, the more you’re going to be laughed at, now, and by history. Anyone who has ever tried to control humour, now has a category of jokes devoted to them.”
He also posted a screenshot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tweet from 2017, which spoke about the importance of satire and humour. “I’m just going to leave this here,” Das wrote.
Comedian Rohan Joshi shared a video on Instagram of Faruqui trying to reason with the people who said they were offended by his jokes. “Turns out now you can just assault people while they’re doing their job and the cops will take ‘them’ to the police station,” Joshi wrote.
Varun Grover, the writer of critically acclaimed web series Sacred Games, also shared the video of Faruqui on his Instagram story. “A fellow Indian, a fellow comedian is in jail and got beaten up by a mob because of the words he uttered,” Grover wrote. “Here he’s trying to logically, calmly present his case but our systems now just want to brutally silence every voice.”
Grover added: “They don’t want to hear, they don’t want to even argue, they want to simply erase every shred of individual thought, every iota of reason. And we the people of the greatest civilization of earth are ok with it.”
Faruqui had also been allegedly roughed up by the members of the group Hind Rakshak Sangathan, who forcefully took him to the Tukoganj police station on Friday along with the organisers of the event.
Besides Faruqui, four other arrested persons were identified as Nalin Yadav, Prakhar Vyas, Edwin Anthony and Priyam Vyas.
They were booked under sections section 269 (unlawful or negligent act likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life), 295-A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) and other related provisions of the Indian Penal Act.