For Immediate Release: South Asian American Comedians Stand Up for Jailed Indian Comedian Munawar Faruqui
Sunita Viswanath, Hindus for Human Rights, 001-917-518-2441, firstname.lastname@example.org
Minhaj Khan, Indian American Muslim Council, 001-732-713-1515, email@example.com
On January 1, Indian comedian Munawar Faruqui was arrested for jokes he didn’t even tell. One month later, he is still in jail.
According to BBC India correspondent Soutik Biswas, “On the evening of 1 January, he was kicking off a 14-city tour with a ticketed show in a café in the central Indian city of Indore. A leader of a local Hindu fringe group had arrived and stopped the show, complaining that the comic was ‘insulting’ Hindu religious sentiments.”
However, Faruqui hadn’t even told a single joke. Nevertheless, the mere suspicion that Faruqui “was going to” tell an offensive joke was enough for the Indore police to arrest him. Faruqui and four of his friends — Nalin Yadav, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas and Edwin Anthony — were arrested that night, and Sadakat Khan, another friend of Faruqui, was arrested the following day. Lower courts in Madhya Pradesh have refused to grant Faruqui bail.
Faruqui’s arrest has to be seen as part of a longer trend of artists, activists, and religious minorities being targeted by the Hindu right and the Hindu nationalist BJP-led government of India. Furquan Ameen of Al Jazeera reports that “Over the past few years, several Indian comics have faced police cases or mob threats for allegedly harming religious or other sentiments, with many saying the pattern indicates the shrinking of freedom of speech in the country.”
In response, a group of young South Asian American comedians have come together to perform a virtual comedy show titled “The Right to Laugh.” United by their belief in human rights and freedom of speech, these rising comedians will showcase their talents while also calling attention to the injustice that Faruqui has been facing for the past month.
Performers will include Myesha Chowdury, Sai D, Abby Govindan, Pallavi Gunalan, Apoorva Gundeti, Masood Haque, Rishi Mahesh, Yamini Nambimadom, and Amar Risbud. Award-winning poet, filmmaker, educator and performer Fatimah Asghar will be the MC.
This show will take place on Saturday, February 6, 2021, at 12 pm ET / 5 pm GMT / 10:30 pm IST. The show will be live-streamed on Facebook (link) and YouTube (link), and attendees can register here.
This solidarity show is being organized by Reclaiming India, a joint initiative of the global Indian diaspora, representing diverse voices, issues, identities, and their intersections. We have strong roots in the country of our origin and stand by the Constitution of India. The core members of Reclaiming India are Dalit Solidarity Forum, Global Indian Progressive Alliance, Hindus for Human Rights, India Civil Watch International, Indian American Muslim Council, and Students Against Hindutva Ideology. The Philly-based Progressive India Collective is cosponsoring this event.