In an absurd and slightly frightening incident that raises doubts about whether we're losing our basic sense of humour, actor Kiku Sharda, famous for his role in TV show Comedy Nights with Kapil, was arrested on Wednesday and sent to 14 days of judicial custody in Kaithal, Haryana for mimicking controversial godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on a TV show.
The actor was booked under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of a community by insulting its religious beliefs, Krishan Murari, SP Kaithal, told CNN-IBN. "He (Sharda) was wearing Guruji's clothes and consuming alcohol with girls on stage. The FIR is against 20-22 people," Murari further said.
Adding that the charges against Sharda amounted to a non-bailable offence, Murari said, "If anyone's religious sentiments are hurt, that is against the law."
According to a report in Hindustan Times, the episode which landed Sharda in trouble was aired on 27 December. The complaint was filed against him on 1 January.
Sharda was arrested despite the fact that he had tweeted out an apology a day after the episode had been aired, saying it wasn't his intention to hurt anyone's feelings.
Doston the act on TV was not to hurt anyone's feelings. My apologies to @Gurmeetramrahim ji and his followers. Let's spread happiness.
— kiku sharda (@kikusharda) December 28, 2015
"I apologise for offending sentiments... If anyone's feelings were hurt, I am really, really sorry," Sharda said in a police station in Kaithal after his arrest. "I respect all gurus. I am a god-fearing man."
How this augurs for the future is unclear, but for now, the list of persons who may be mocked or parodied is shrinking by the day.