The People’s Union for Civil Liberties-Karnataka (PUCK-K) has strongly condemned the Bengaluru Police for suggesting to organisers to cancel a show by stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui in the city last Sunday by citing “law and order problems”.
Faruqui was to perform at a show titled Dongri to Nowhere at the Good Shepherd auditorium on Sunday, but the organisers, Curtain Call, called off the event, following a letter from the Ashok Nagar police station. The letter said that many cases had been filed against the comedian in many states and that there was credible information that several organisations opposed the show. “This could create chaos and disturb public peace and harmony, which may further lead to law and order problems,” stated the police in their letter.
Incidentally, this is not the first time Faruqui’s shows have been called off. His shows in Mumbai, Raipur, Surat, Vadodara and Ahmedabad were called off as he has been targeted by rightwing groups. He has also had to spend a month in a jail in Indore this year on charges of allegedly insulting Hindu gods and goddesses.
“The Ashok Nagar Police failed to ensure security when faced with threats from rightwing organisations. The police, by abdicating their responsibility to protect the rights of Munawar to perform, have admitted that any group can hold the cultural life of the city to ransom. The police’s sole role is to protect the right of speech and association, not deny it based on rumour and surmise,” said the press statement by Shujayathulla, president of PUCL, Bengaluru, and professor Y.J. Rajendra, president of PUCL-Karnataka.
Reiterating that the freedom of speech and expression was a constitutional right and included the freedom to satirise the government, PUCL added that Munawar Faruqui was a comedian and a comedian by definition makes fun of the powers that be, be it the prime minister or the home minister. By denying Munawar the right to perform, the PUCL argued, the state is trying to insulate itself against the voice of a young man whose humour is tongue in cheek and unapologetically political and who is not afraid to criticise the government.
“It is a sad commentary of our democracy that today comedians of all stripes and hues find themselves under unprecedented attack as the state has lost its sense of humour and comedy is being ostracised, hounded and criminalised,” noted PUCL.
The PUCL has demanded the police withdraw its letter and urged Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai to host Munawar Faruqui’s show to assert the Karnataka government’s “commitment to upholding the image of Bengaluru as a cosmopolitan, plural and welcoming city”.