A Muslim stand-up comedian was detained by Indian authorities and sent to a Madhya Pradesh prison for jokes he did not tell his audience.
Munawar Faruqui, 28, from Mumbai spent 25 days in prison over jokes he never delivered during his performance, but Indian officials claim that he was “going to.”
Now, Faruqui is facing legal action in two states. The comedian was arrested in Madhya Pradesh while performing by Indore police for allegedly insulting Hindu deities during rehearsals. In neighboring Uttar Pradesh, he is wanted both by the police in another alleged case of over Hindu deity insults and Interior Minister Amit Shah.
On Monday, the Indore bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court reserved its ruling on Farooqi's bail application. The court considered the comedian's petition for bail after the lower court rejected two of the petitions earlier this month.
“That Munawar Faruqui bail hearing lasted less than 15 min. For a joke he did NOT crack in Indore, for an FIR that can NOT make the claim that he made the joke, for a case there is no electronic evidence for,” Aishwarya S Iyer, a reporter for digital news platform The Quint wrote on Twitter.
Both states are governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Indian authorities detained the comedian after members of a little-known Hindu group, called Hind Rakshak Sangathan, reported Faruqui, claiming that he had insulted Hindu gods during his performance. Several of Faruqui’s friends were also arrested over allegations of helping to organize the event.
Although the city’s superintendent of police, Vijay Khatri, said in a statement that they have “enough evidence” against Faruqui, he told the Indian news website Article 14 last week that the comedian had not made the jokes in his performance but was “going to.”
The comedian’s lawyer Anshuman Srivastava told Doha-based Al-Jazeera that the police did not produce any evidence in court against Faruqui. He said that police have failed to prove that the comedian violated any laws by “deliberately intending to outrage religious feelings.”
“A hypothetical allegation has been leveled by the complainant and merely on the basis of presumption the police has registered an offense,” said Srivastava, adding that the police registered the complaint because of “political pressure.”
Social media users condemned the Indian authorities’ actions and accused them of violating human rights and as another crackdown on Muslims.
“Munawar Faruqui is still in custody for 'jokes' he never told and imaginary offenses. It’s been a week now. Why is his bail being constantly denied? Because he’s Muslim,” one Twitter user wrote.