Stand-up comic Munawar Faruqui’s arrest in Indore: A brief timeline of what happened
Firstpost spoke to the police, Hind Rakshak Sangathan convenor and the complainant Eklavya Gaur, Munawar’s family and friends and members of the audience to piece together the events that transpired that evening
Stand-up comedian Munawar Faruqui and four associates were arrested on Friday (1 January, 2021) by the Indore Police following a complaint from Eklavya Singh Gaur, son of Indore BJP MLA Malini Gaur. Gaur complained that they had allegedly insulted Hindu deities during a comedy show and also cracked jokes about Home Minister Amit Shah. A local court rejected their bail pleas and sent them to judicial custody on Saturday.
The event was held at Cafe Monroe in Indore’s 56 Dukan area on Friday. "A case was filed late on Friday night against Munawar Faruqui, a resident of Junagadh in Gujarat and four Indore-based persons based on a written complaint filed by Gaur," Tukoganj police station in-charge Kamlesh Sharma told Firstpost. All of them were booked under IPC sections 295-A (outraging religious feelings), 269 (unlawful or negligent act likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life) and other relevant provisions. Section 269 was invoked for allegedly ignoring COVID-19 safety protocols, the official said.
Gaur told reporters that he and his friends went to watch the show where Faruqui was performing as the main comedian. "The show mocked Hindu deities by passing indecent comments. The Godhra incident and Shah were also mentioned inappropriately. We shot a video and stopped the show by taking the audience out of the cafe,” Gaur has been quoted as saying in several media reports.
Firstpost reached out to several members of the audience who were present at Cafe Monroe on 1 January when the incident happened, who said that Munawar was not even allowed to start his show. “Munawar got to the stage, but the show never began. Munawar had barely spoken for seven minutes, when we were told that the show will not happen and we were told to leave,” one of the audience members, requesting anonymity, told Firstpost.
Firstpost spoke to the police, Hind Rakshak Sangathan convenor and the complainant Eklavya Gaur, Munawar’s family and friends and members of the audience to piece together the events that transpired that evening. All audience members and Munawar’s friends requested anonymity given the sensitivity of the article. Here is what we found:
Early on Friday evening, a group of 70-odd fans of Munawar — a majority of them college students — landed up at Cafe Monroe to see their “bhai” perform. “It was a very small room and it was packed. Tickets weren’t cheap, so those who came were dedicated Munawar fans,” said one of the audience members, “It was surprising, yet heartening to see young artistes getting such recognition in small towns. And it was a houseful show.”
Cafe Monroe, the venue of the show as listed on bookmyshow.com, had arranged for seating outside the main cafe area. “It was a small hall-like space. Imagine a small living room. Chairs were set up very tightly and it was a planned event. Everything was in its place when we arrived,” another audience member said.
Several local media reports have quoted the owners of the cafe denying any knowledge of the event happening there. Firstpost tried contacting the owners of the cafe for their comment, but they refused to speak to the media. The piece will be updated as details become available.
The show was scheduled to start at 4 pm. By 4.15 pm, according to eye-witness accounts, two associates of Munawar — Nalin Yadav and Prakhar Vyas — opened the show with their act. Nalin and Prakhar, both budding comedians, were arrested along with Munawar on 1 January. The three audience members to whom this reporter spoke to described their set as “very harmless” and “non-religious” in nature.
“After 10-15 minutes, Munawar walked in but as soon as he took the mic, another guy came up on the stage, took the mic from Munawar’s hands and put an arm authoritatively around his shoulders. We thought this was part of the act. He was Eklavya Singh Gaur,” the audience member confirmed.
Thirty-six-year-old Gaur, is the son of local BJP MLA and the mayor of Indore Malini Laxman Singh Gaur. Gaur is also the convenor of the local outfit Hind Rakshak Sangathan. Malini has been the mayor of Indore for 15 years. The local body polls were scheduled to be held recently, but were deferred in December, due to the ongoing pandemic.
According to eyewitness accounts, a group of six or seven people had accompanied Gaur. While others remained amid the audience, Gaur took to the stage, took the mic of Munawar’s hands and addressed the audience:
“Ye Munawar Faruqui hai, ye shows karta hai, humare devi devtaon ka mazaaq udata hai aur tum log (pointing to the audience) paise deke iska show dekhne aate ho, tumhe sharam nahi aati?”
At this point several members of the audience pointed out that Gaur was referring to an old video that Munawar had released four months ago, during the lockdown. The original video has been taken down after right-wing groups threatened Munawar. Check out the video here.
The audience responded strongly to Gaur. “We told him that we came to listen to Munawar and not him. We didn’t pay money to listen to you,” said another member of the audience.
Firstpost also accessed several clips of video footage shot by the audience at the event which corroborated eyewitness accounts. In the video, Gaur is heard saying, “Ye humesha bolta hai. Aaj main bolunga.”
When a scuffle was imminent between the audience and Gaur, Munawar stepped in, said one of the audience members. “He was polite. He calmed the audience down first. He promised us a good show and told us 'Baith jaiye. Unko bolne dijiye. We will have a good show. Aap beech mein mat bolo. But aap log bhi baat karenge toh time waste hoga'. And the audience abided,” one of the audience members confirmed.
What followed was a dialogue between Munawar and Gaur. Here is a short transcript of it based on videos accessed by Firstpost:
Munawar: Main kisi ko target nahi karta hoon, sir. Mere jokes hain islam pe bhi, mere jokes hain triple talaq pe. Main lekin ye nahi keh raha ki main kisi bhi dharm ka mazaaq uda sakta hoon
Gaur interrupts and says: Aapne apne “Mohammad” par kuch bola hai?
Munawar: Aap meri baat sun lijiye poori..
Audience: Sir.. let him finish first. Unko kehne dijiye. Aapne apni baat kahi. Ab unki suniye
Gaur: Aapne banaya bhi toh mujhe nahi fark padta hai.. Aap bhagwan ke naam pe nahi bana sakte
Commotion among the audience continues — Gaur continues to speak but inaudibly
Munawar: Mujhe regret hua us video ke baad kyuki aath roz tak meri ma ko, meri behenon ko death aur rape threats ayen. Main ghar se bahar nahi nikla. Outrage chal raha tha. Mujhe laga main arrest ho jaunga
Gaur interrupts but it’s inaudible. Munawar says, "Sun lijiye meri baat. Mujhe 10 min de dijiye."
Munawar: Ten days after the video, I released a clarification video. Aur main bahut socha aur fir samjha ki har ki threshold alag hoti hai. Video ke end mein main bola hai that the intention was not to hurt sentiments, the intention was to make everyone laugh. Maine maafi maangi hai, apne shayad dekhi na ho video. Jahan tak Godhra ke joke ki baat hai, Sir mera ghar jala tha 2002 mein. Main Junagarh mein tha. (Audience claps. Munawar silences them) Main aapko vo joke fir se sunata hoon... Aapko agar bura lagta hai toh main maafi mangunga...
Gaur interrupts: Suno suno.. Yahan audience mein kisiko fark padta hai ki nahi mujhe pata nahi, mujhe fark padta hai. Aap yahan ye wada kariye, ki devi devtaon ko leke koi bhi mazaq — kisi bhi religion ka ho — nahi karenge.
Audience interrupts and there is a mild commotion. Munawar tries to quieten the audience and says Guys, we will have a good show. Turns to Gaur and says, "Aap baitheyi. Aap yahan se hans ke jayenge. Aapko thens nahi pahuchegi. Sabka faith alag hota hai. Sab alag se react karte hain."
Gaur: Mera faith alag hai, aap mere faith ka mazaq nahi uda sakte. Hum yahan show cancel karne ya jhagra karne nahi aye hain
Audience continues to interrupt Gaur, while Munawar tells them to sit down and be patient.
Munawar: Sir, aap bahut izzat aur abroo ke saath aye hain. Internet pe toh ma, behen ki gaali milti hai
Gaur: Comedy ke naam pe kuch bhi karoge hum bardasht nahi karenge. (Takes the mic) Aap freedom of expression ka bahana deke kuch bhi aap bolenge, but humara freedom of expression nahi hai ki humein pasand nahi hai ye joke?
The audio in the video after this point is not very clear, but Gaur is seen leaving the stage and on his way out. “We thought everything was fine and that the show would resume. Munawar started his set with the joke about how he would refund our money and a friend’s wedding in Delhi. There was no religion even mentioned. It was barely five or seven minutes into the show that we heard a loud commotion outside,” said a member of the audience.
Eyewitnesses recounted that a group of men, at least 10 or 12, had gathered outside the cafe and raised slogans against Munawar and the show organisers. Gaur and his associates had left the venue and they were too waiting outside. “One of the people from backstage came, quite shaken, and told us that the show will not be happening and that we have to leave,” the audience member confirmed.
But the audience would not leave without Munawar. “We know what happens in such situations. We wanted Munawar bhai to be safe,” said the 18-year-old who was present at the event. “We decided to leave with Munawar in the middle, so that no one could harm him.”
According to the audience, they flanked Munawar from all sides and started walking out of the one exit gate that went through the cafe. “What followed was atrocious. We had barely reached the doors, when goons and gundas started yelling at us and started pushing us back inside the cafe. The entrance is quite narrow, there was a stampede-like situation and what was worse was they started beating everyone,” said the audience member.
Young college students, who had come for an evening of fun and laughter, got slapped, thrashed and some had their glasses and phones broken. Firstpost accessed videos that showed men attacking members of the audience and pushing them out of the cafe. “I saw it with my own eyes. There was no need for it. We were leaving. There were 70 people. How do you get out so fast? But there was utter commotion. People were thrashed and bruised and we realised we should run because they might not stop at anything,” an audience member confirmed.
Eyewitnesses said Munawar and his associates, along with Gaur and his aides, remained inside the cafe while the members from the audience were told to leave. “We waited outside when we saw the cops come in. That’s when we left.”
“We were appalled at the misinformation. There were no religious jokes. Gaur and Munawar had a brief discussion in front of the audience. Munawar was polite and handled the situation very nicely. Me and my friend left as soon as the organisers told us to leave, because we were scared,” said another member of the audience.
“He is a serial offender. He has done this before and he is still doing it. We have said that in the FIR but the complaint is against the 1st Jan show,” Eklavya Singh Gaur told Firstpost. According to Gaur, when he got to know that Munawar is holding a show in Indore, he and his associates bought tickets and went to the event as members of the audience. “Some of our people were outside also. And as expected, they were mocking our gods and goddesses. There were jokes on Ganesh and Karthik, a mockery of Indian culture. So, we stopped the show and we told the audience to leave. And then filed the FIR.”
According to Gaur, even art has its limitations. “I was a theatre artist too. I know the importance of art. Par humour ke naam pe aap maryada langhte jayenge aur ye expect karenge ki sab pach jayega, vo nahi chalega. Har cheez ki ek limit hoti hai, vo limit ko koi cross karega toh, hum action toh karenge.”
When told that the videos from the event presented a different picture, Gaur said, “Mazaq uda tha. Humne apni videos police ko diye hain.”
However, town inspector of Tukaganj Police Station Kamlesh Sharma was quoted as saying by The Indian Express, “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 are of another comedian with him allegedly cracking jokes on Lord Ganesh.
Speaking to Firstpost, Sharma said, “All the accused are still in judicial custody. We are investigating the case. We have seized pen drives and hard drives and we are looking into the matter.” The inspector did not specify when the police seized the items and from where. “Initially, the complaint was made on one video. Now, we have found a lot of material that we are looking into to see if the allegations are true.” Denying the Express report, Sharma asked, “Agar proof nahi hota toh court judicial custody mein kyu bhejti? And the case is under investigation.”
Sharma confirms that the FIR is against the 1st January event held at the Cafe Munroe, where according to eyewitness accounts and videos from the venue, no religious jokes were cracked.
Munawar hails from Gujarat, but lives in Mumbai. “Munawar’s distant relative in Indore is our only contact in the city apart from the lawyer. Another friend who went to surprise Munawar at the show also got arrested and beaten by the police,” alleged Munawar’s friend and budding comedian Saad Sheikh. According to Munawar’s family, the police didn’t even inform them about the arrest. “We got to know when a neighbour saw a video,” Munawar’s aunt, who has raised him since his parents passed away, told Firstpost.
“Due to COVID-19, we aren’t allowed to schedule more than 100 shows a year. And the shows are small. Munawar had events in Indore, Bhopal, Raipur, Patna, Guwahati and Kolkata. I got calls from these venues who are too scared to host the show. Some said they have been threatened too. We incurred a loss of at least Rs 3-4 lakh. All the shows are cancelled,” one of the tour members told Firstpost.
As of publication date, Munawar is still in judicial custody in Indore and the bail plea hearing is at 3 pm tomorrow (5th January). According to Saad, Munawar would like to put all of this behind him and go back to his family.
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