Death threats in India over petty issues are very common. In no time can a threat be escalated from ‘Jaanta Hai Mera Baap Kaun Hai?’ to something scarier and very disturbing. The artist community has always been under the radar of people who keep a check on what an artist says or expresses through his art, and then aggressively slam him or her for the same. And this time, it’s comedian Kunal Kamra. The comedian has been receiving multiple death threats following a video he posted on YouTube titled ‘Patriotism & the Government’ on March 1 this year. In his stand up set, he joked about demonetisation and patriotism which, apparently, wasn’t appreciated by some.
The next few days after the video was posted were not easy for Kamra. Being a comedian, it’s probably normal for him to offend a certain section of people who, for some reason, disagree; but it’s only natural for someone to be worried about receiving serious death threats. The stand-up comedian wrote on social networking websites that he has been receiving several death threats online. He said to Mid-day, “Initially, I used to receive criticism in the form of expletive words. I am fine with that. If I am entitled to my opinion, others should be as well.”
“I don’t mind the brazen language either. If someone wants to abuse me to express themselves, that’s fine with me too. But then, it came to lines like ‘Dilli aao, tumhe batata hoon’, ‘Tum Shivaji Park mein rehte ho na, hume pata hai’ and ‘Bharat mata ki kasam, tu nahin bachega’. All of this suggested that people have tracked my whereabouts and shows just to attack me.”
Expressing his concern over freedom of speech and humour and where to draw the line, Kamra asked, “In India, political comedy means poking fun at Rahul Gandhi or Arvind Kejriwal. People want to lap up inconsequential humour alone. The moment you joke about people in power, it becomes a case of national pride. How on Earth can people laugh at powerful people when they are only meant to be revered?”
Keeping in mind what Kunal Kamra had to say in his video and other artists who use different forms of art to present their point of view, besides any regular citizen who desires to voice his or her opinion, is free speech and the freedom to disagree in India under threat? And is it justified that a person should receive violent threats of death and sexual violence by goons, outlaws and those backed by the powerful, only for something that has been expressed?
By Aman Sahil