Religion and politics can never be separate entities and the fact reasserts itself time and again. The recent arrest of actor and comedian, Kiku Sharda, under Section 295A of Indian Penal Code for deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious sentiments is another such assertion. Kiku has been remanded to 14 days in judicial custody for mimicking Dera Sacha Sauda Chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. This debacle brought the issue of intolerance again into scrutiny.
Twitter is overwhelmingly filled with contemptuous remarks over the arrest. Tanmay Bhatt, (AIB team) tweeted, “Section 295A needs to go. Or modified. Or something. It gives every religious group ammo to go after anyone”. Not too long ago, an FIR was filed against the entire AIB team and the celebrities involved in “AIB ROAST”, which is another incident of intolerance in the country, albeit, it had nothing to do with religion.The obscenity in language and certain sexual innuendoes were the cause of such an exaggerated and polarising response. When Aamir Khan commented on intolerance, he argued that the censor board should let the adult audience decide what it wants to see and called its mechanism alarming. Well, it indeed is. India has always been known for its intolerance, as Akshay Kumar stated, coming at the forefront while Khans stepped back after facing the condemnation.
I have been studying 17th and 18th century England lately and it is so easy to see the similarity between the mentioned centuries and contemporary India. The arrest of entertainers and bans and censors over things meant for entertainment can so easily be related to the attack on theatres by Puritans (a religious sect in Christianity which was also very powerful). It was a period of turmoil where we might unfortunately be heading too, if we continue to misunderstand entertainers. Kiku apologized and said that he is an artist and presented the programme on the directions of the channel and programme producers and further argued that why is he the only one being blamed. I cannot resist questioning here, why at all should anyone be blamed? Maybe, because the naivety of a certain group of people might lead us to a Civil War.
“Oh My God” released in 2012, a satirical comedy drama which caters to this very hullaballoo around religion and Godmen, generated a lot of controversy as well, including the halt on its screening in various places in Punjab following a protest alleging that the film made derogatory references to Hindu gods. PK, too following the path of the above mentioned movie, invited ire of many people including yoga guru Baba Ramdev who slammed those making such movies that according to him, denigratedthe Hindu culture and religion. The usage of the right of voicing opinions is usually followed by a protest, and I think it would be better if this right is marked with an asterisk of conditions apply. Article 19(1) of the Indian constitution ie, Freedom of speech and expression which is a fundamental right, is violated by Article 295A. We almost made a record of bans the previous year, it was like we were in a race of let’s see who can put most abrupt bans and if it were true; we definitely won. All the bans, undoubtedly, credited to the intolerant society we inhabit. Now, Aamir Khan isn’t paying me to support him but his “who wants to live in India anyway” remark taken out of context, led to the cancellation of his contract with the Incredible India campaign.
Similar incidents can be traced back in near past. A non-bailable arrest warrant was issued against M.S. Dhoni for allegedly hurting religious sentiments. A morphed photographed was published on the cover page of Business Today magazine’s April 2013 issue of the cricketer portrayed as Lord Vishnu. This incident also brings forth the pattern of selective condemnation we have been following. There had been a similar incident where Amazon chief Jeff Bezos was shown as Lord Vishnu on the cover page of latest issue of international business magazine Fortune. He was portrayed as a Hindu deity with a lotus in one hand and the Amazon logo on the palm of the other. The caption read : Amazon invades India. All it evoked was some raised eyebrows. Freedom of expression is not absolute and the law would have not applied if a common man would have been ridiculed. Such laws are only being utilized to satisfy the whims of some people in power. Such abrupt rage also makes us define the line between satire and comedy, and slander.
Peace people. Live an entertaining life and take the entertainment in a healthy way.