If the country’s youth can decide who to vote, they can also decide what to watch, stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui told NDTV days after three shows in Mumbai featuring him were cancelled following threats from Bajrang Dal.
Mr Faruqui, who was in jail for a month earlier this year in a case accusing him of “insulting Hindu gods and goddesses”, said 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 reportedly threatened to burn down the venues. Announcing the cancellations, Mr Faruqui had tweeted that 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 said.
The comic said “everyone is targeted”. “In my case, they use religion. That scares me,” he said.
Mr Faruqui said that following his arrest and bail, he has performed in 50 shows and 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.
“You show the clip out of context and say I have insulted (Hindu gods),” he said.
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,
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 he will burn the place down, vandalise it, he will think. This is wrong, this is a free country.”
“Hate won, so the shows got cancelled. But for how long? We will win,” he said, adding that he will “continue to spread smiles”.