Indian Comic Sent to Jail for Jokes He Did Not Tell | 22 Words

At the start of the month, an Indian comedian was sent to prison for a series of offensive jokes he did not tell.

Here's the full, somewhat bizarre story...

Munawar Faruqui is the comic at the center of the scandal.

​The thirty-year-old, who is a Muslim, works as a stand-up comedian in Mumbai, India, but had stirred up quite some controversy ahead of his show on January 1st.

Munawar is a vibrant character amongst the new, up-and-coming comedy scene in the country...

But, sadly, there are still a number of traditionally conservative Indians who don't take too kindly to his modern and progressive style of stand-up.

Many of these people believed that Munawar was going to crack some "anti-Hindu" jokes...

And he was subsequently forced to stop his performance at Indore's Monroe cafe after members of a Hindu group called Hind Rakshak Sangathan, alleged he had insulted Hindu gods.

In a mobile phone video recorded by an audience member, the comic could be seen pleading with the group...

And insisting that he also jokes about Muslims in his shows and that he should be allowed to continue.

"I just want to make people laugh. If anyone feels offended I will never do it again," he could be heard saying.

Eklavya Gaud, the leader of the local Hindu group, later told reporters:

"He's a serial offender. He has made indecent remarks on Hindu gods and goddesses in the past."

Munawar, along with 4 others - Nalin Yadav, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas, and Edwin Anthony – were then handed over to the police.

Where they were then arrested and charged with outraging religious feelings and performing a "negligent act likely to spread infection of diseases dangerous to life", alluding to the pandemic.

But, after their bail applications were rejected twice by a lower court, Munawar's lawyer moved to the high court, thus making the case public.

Almost instantly, there was an overwhelming outrage over his arrest...

And countless calls for his release.

Very quickly, the hashtag #FreeMunawar started to gain momentum...

As people from all over the world came together to call for justice.

Now, I know what you're thinking...

How bad could his jokes have been?

Well, eyewitnesses told reporters that Munawar had not actually cracked any jokes relating to religion when he was picked up...

And that he hadn't even started his routine when the show was brought to a halt.

The police later admitted they had no evidence that the comic had made any inflammatory jokes...

But that the complainant had "overheard some jokes" that the comic was preparing for the show.

"He was arrested for jokes he didn't crack. Munawar hadn't even begun the show when he was interrupted. A presumption of and anticipation of a so-called criminal act cannot be an offense. The police registered a case and arrested him without verifying the facts," Anshumaan Shrivastava, the comic's lawyer, told the BBC.

Though the jokes that landed him behind bars haven't yet been revealed, Munawar has toyed with dark humor in the past.

In one of his shows, he had cracked a joke about his native Gujarat state and the deadly religious riots of 2002.

"Junagadh is a very lazy city. People go for siestas, shops shut, nothing happens... We were 8 kids in the house. I was happy because I didn't have to go to school. The electricity used to go, the phones went dead, the elders in the house were anxious about their safety. But when the riots ended, [we found] nobody died in Junagadh... You know why? People were too lazy to even riot."

More than 1,000 people were killed in the riots.

As it stands, the police say releasing the comic would lead to a "law and order situation."

"This will have a chilling effect on comedians. They will be constantly forced to police themselves," Amit Varma, a writer and podcaster, told the BBC. "Stand-up comics will now tend to stay away from politics."

This is a developing story, and updates will be posted accordingly.