New Delhi/ Indore: Over 100 artistes and writers, including Arundhati Roy, Kunal Kamra, Pooja Bhatt and Kalki Koechlin, have demanded full dismissal of all charges against stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui and four others for allegedly hurting religious sentiments during a show.
Faruqui and four others were arrested on January 1, following a complaint by Indore BJP MLA's son that objectionable remarks about Hindu deities and Home Minister Amit Shah were passed during a comedy show at a cafe in Indore on New Year's Day.
He was released from the Indore Central Jail late in the night on February 6 after he was granted interim bail by the Supreme Court. In a joint statement, over 100 artistes called for the full dismissal of all charges against Faruqui, Nalin Yadav, Prakhar Vyas, Edwin Anthony, and Sadakat Khan.
Noting that this case reinforces deep concerns around the rights to liberty and freedom of speech in India, they said the arrest and detention of Faruqui is indicative of the poor protection currently being afforded to the freedom of speech and expression in the country. Every citizen in India has the constitutional right to free speech and expression, albeit with reasonable restrictions.
"However, through instances like these, it is obvious that most arrests and forms of censorship carried out against artistes are founded on arbitrary grounds and are greatly damaging to artistic and creative freedom in the country," they said.
This statement is led by diasporic Indian group Progressive India Collective in partnership with PEN America's Artists at Risk Connection, Freemuse, and Reclaiming India.