Comedian Munawar Faruqui stays in jail, co-accused include brother, friend, organiser

Of the six youngsters, who are behind bars for more than a fortnight, one is the brother of the show's organiser who was in the audience, another a friend of Munawar Faruqui's who had nothing to do with the event, and a third whose only family is a minor brother running around for him now.

The Indore police says it has no evidence regarding the allegations against Munawar Faruqui, and on Friday failed to produce a case diary before the Indore Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court at his bail hearing. Still, the case against the comedian, held for alleged objectionable remarks against Hindu deities, now has six youngsters behind bars for more than a fortnight. Of the six, one is the brother of the show’s organiser who was in the audience, another a friend of Faruqui’s who had nothing to do with the event, and a third whose only family is a minor brother running around for him now.

An Indore Sessions Court has rejected all the bail petitions it has heard so far. After the adjournment Friday due to “non-availability” of police case diary, the High Court will take up Faruqui’s bail plea earliest by next week.

Faruqui, 28, was arrested along with Nalin Yadav, Prakhar Vyas, Priyam Vyas and Edwin Anthony on January 1 for the alleged objectionable remarks and for “hurting religious sentiments” at a show in Indore, on a complaint by Eklavya Gaud, the son of BJP MLA Malini Gaud. The next day, Faruqui’s friend Sadakat Khan was held when he went to meet him in court.

Faruqui was booked under IPC Sections 295A (outraging religious feelings) and 269 (unlawful or negligent act likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life) among other charges.

At the bail hearing Friday, Faruqui and Yadav’s lawyer Anshuman Shrivastav appealed to the High Court to reschedule the hearing for later in the day. “Since the Tukoganj Police Station (where the case is registered) is across the road from the High Court premises, we argued that the police should be asked to get the diary… however it (the hearing) was adjourned,” he said, calling it a tactic by the police to harass his client.

On January 13, a Judicial Magistrate First Class had extended the judicial custody of all the accused except Sadakat for another two weeks.

Shrivastav had earlier questioned the grounds on which bail had been rejected by the Sessions Court. “The criminal law does not work on assumptions but their bail has been denied on an assumption that it will lead to law and order problems and not on any technical or legal grounds.”

An Indore-based producer and upcoming comedian, Prakhar, 24, had contacted Faruqui for the show. Faruqui’s was to be the main act, of about 75 minutes, with Prakhar and Yadav, 24, another small-time comedian, doing five-seven minute gigs each. Priyam, Prakhar’s younger brother, was attending the show. Faruqui came down from Mumbai, while Yadav travelled from Dhar in Madhya Pradesh.

In its application to the Sessions Court on January 6 objecting to Prakhar and Priyam’s bail pleas, the Tukoganj Police Station said Prakhar had made all the arrangements, and accused him of making objectionable remarks against Hindu deities in his opening act. It argued that bail be denied as there were law and order issues in Ujjain and Indore after the remarks.

Prakhar and Priyam’s family could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.

Nalin’s younger brother, who is 17 and a second-year commerce student, said Nalin was yet to present his act at the Indore show when he was arrested. “When I went to visit Nalin in jail, he was worried about my safety as there is just the two of us. He kept repeating that he did not crack any jokes on religion,” he said. The brothers lost their mother two months ago.

Among those arrested, Sadakat was in no way involved with the show, uncle Yunus Khan pointed out. He was in Indore to meet his grandmother, and went to meet Faruqui being his friend. “He was arrested for no mistake of his. He is a clean-hearted person, always willing to help,” Yunus said.

Not much is known about Anthony, the first accused in the case, apart from the fact that he is an Indore resident and was the “event coordinator”. Even a bail application has not been moved on his behalf.

Faruqui’s tour manager and stand-up producer Vishesh Arora said Faruqui had been doing this particular comic routine since November, had done 25 shows already and was to do 20 more across different cities after Indore. Prior to the Hyderabad show on December 31 too, there had been some trouble, with Faruqui getting threats online, Arora said. So they had arranged bouncers.

According to Arora, they had bouncers in Indore as well. “But when the mob came, the bouncers disappeared,” the manager who was in Delhi at the time said. He added that Faruqui had never faced trouble from the audience during a show earlier.

Arora, who claims to have also represented comedian Kunal Kamra, among others, said he always advises clients to cancel shows if threats escalate. “But Munawar decided that he would do these shows (as we did not see a problem).”

Faruqui’s lawyer Shrivastav said the FIR filed by Gaud, the convenor of ‘Hindu Rakshak Sanghatan’, did not even specify the comments allegedly made by Faruqui. “The police should have verified the allegations and then arrested the accused,” he said. The lawyer added that alleged remarks by Faruqui against Home Minister Amit Shah and on Godhra riots were based on a video shot about four years ago.

Town Inspector of Tukoganj Police Station Kamlesh Sharma had earlier told The Indian Express they had no evidence against Faruqui directly and that he had been booked as an organiser. “There’s no evidence against him for insulting Hindu deities or Union Minister Amit Shah,” he said. He said the two videos submitted by the complainant were of another comedian with him allegedly cracking jokes on Lord Ganesh.

A routine called ‘Nawab, Nehru & Gujarat 2002’, where he talks about Junagadh’s near-secession to Pakistan during Partition and the Godhra riots remains one of the most popular videos of Faruqui, who has more than 5 lakh followers on YouTube.

A cousin of Faruqui said the family had been living in apprehension since April 2020, when he had received online warnings, including threats to rape his three sisters, after he posted a comedy routine titled ‘Dawood, Yamraaj & Aurat’. The family had tried to caution him against doing the show in Indore. “But Munawar told us there was nothing to fear. That it was just a matter of an hour (the length of the show).”

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