Kiku Sharda was held for mimicking Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, jailed for 14 days, bailed at Rs 1 lakh only to be detained again; artists rally behind comedian, top judge, lawyers question legality of arrest
As entertainer Kiku Sharda was arrested by the Haryana Police yesterday, for mimicking Dera Sacha Sauda head, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh on national television, artists have risen up in arms against what is an attack on free speech and artistic freedom.
Comedian Kiku Sharda, best known for his cross-dress act as single-girl-looking-for-a groom, Palak, was arrested yesterday in Haryana for mimicking religious guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh (left)
“Comedy has always inspired, given messages, it has never harmed. If we are mimicking someone, there should be no control politically or socially. I believe we respect all religions. For us comedians, feelings and emotions are a bigger religion. Kisi ko khulke hasaana, isse badi ibaadat nahi, kisi ke dil ko dukhana hamari aadat nahi,” said fellow comedian Sunil Pal.
What incensed many was the fact that Kiku Sharda was held even after he apologised and made it clear that it was never his intention to hurt any religious sentiments, and he had only enacted the script he was provided. File pic
Kiku is best known for his role as ‘Palak’ in the show ‘Comedy Nights with Kapil’, where he parodied the self-styled godman Ram Rahim in the episode that aired on December 27. He was arrested in Mumbai and sent to Haryana, where he was remanded to 14 days in judicial custody after a Dera Sacha Sauda follower, Uday Singh, filed a complaint against him. The complaint was filed under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code (outraging religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious belief).
However, many pointed out how Kiku was the only one singled out for the act, while no one else — not the show producer, the scriptwriter or the channel — was pulled up.
Stand-up comedian Aditi Mittal told mid-day, “295A is an archaic law, one of the hangovers we’ve managed to maintain since post-colonial times, although, I am no one to comment on it. Why are they going after one individual? It always boils down to one person who becomes the symbolic scapegoat for that particular expression, although everyone was in on it. The network, entire show, the organiser and the audience who laughed and clapped – they should go after everyone.”
Fellow comedian Vir Das said the channel should take charge and support Kiku. “I am not sure what this organisation is and how they managed to pull this off. The channel should now take responsibility. I have known Kiku’s work for many years and he has made us laugh on several channels. Artists are always given scripts. I think the comedy community should rally behind him, and more than that, the channel and their legal resources should rally behind him.”
He was quick to add, however, that this episode should not be viewed as an attack on comedy: “I don’t think people are attacking comedy; this is just one group that pulled it off. People are embracing comedy, which can be seen in the support that has been pouring in for Kiku on social media.”
Apology not accepted?
What incensed many was the fact that Kiku was held even after he apologised and made it clear that it was never his intention to hurt any religious sentiments, and he had only enacted the script he was provided.
“I was given a dress, script to read and directed to act,” Kiku had told the media after his arrest, adding that he had been booked in this case but no action was taken against others, including the TV channel.
Following Kiku’s apology, Ram Rahim tweeted that he had no complaint against him as he had already apologised. Late in the evening, the actor was released in Kaithal on a bail bond of Rs 1 lakh, only to be detained again in the Fatehabad district as another case was registered against him in the same matter.
Actress Kavita Kaushik, who worked with Kiku in the comedy show FIR, said instead of crucifying him, people should accept Kiku’s apology. She said, “The audience has the right to dislike a subject, but taking this to such a drastic step is ridiculous, especially after he apologised. Kiku is being punished even after he extended an olive branch. Where is the humanity if we don’t even know the art of forgiveness?”
As it is, the timing of the controversy could not have been worse. “The timing is so bad; Kiku’s father just came out of a bypass surgery a few days ago. My heart goes out to him and I am really upset and disgusted with the situation. After knowing him for so long, I can confidently say that he is the last person to court controversy. He always follows the instructions given by the production house,” said actor Suresh Menon, who is a close friend of Kiku’s.
Here's the video from the 'Jashn-E-Ummeed' show that got Kiku Sharda in trouble
Legal experts weigh in
Markandey Katju, Former SC judge
I fail to understand how mimicry by Kiku Sharda violated Section 295A of the IPC. It seems that a sense of humour has departed from our country, and freedom of speech and expression can be violated, and sacrificed to intolerance.
YP Singh, IPS officer-turned advocate
It is not a case for arrest. Under Section 41 (A) of the CrPC, he should have been summoned and then questioned rather than arrested. This was a high-handed action of making an arrest by an entity whose jurisdiction is doubtful. The FIR should have been filed here, as the production of the show is done here.
Yug Chaudhry, Senior advocate
A public figure who acts in movies and behaves like a rock star when he claims to be the leader of a religious sect cannot be immune from public satire and ridicule. Satire is an essential component of freedom of speech, and freedom of speech has no meaning if it only entails saying things others agree with.
Sorabh Pant, Stand-up comedian
It’s disturbing; effectively this means that anyone in the country can be pulled up for anything. Cite religion and put someone behind bars. 14 days of judicial custody without any questions. The law is structured in such a way, there’s no way out. A lot of political parties believe that it helps people protect their religious rights, but I don’t think it has ever been used for that. It’s always used for something political or to make a terrible point.
Sunil Grover, Co-star on Comedy Nights with Kapil
It’s really unfortunate and disturbing that he was behind bars when he had already apologised. There are people who have committed worse ‘crimes’ still roaming free. I think we need to get our priorities right.
Varun Grover, Comedian, screen writer
295A must go, but it never will. Nobody is going to do anything about it because no one cares about free speech in our country.
Kapil Sharma @KapilSharmaK9: I appeal to Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh ji INSAAN to come in front of the media in regard to this matter and present a beautiful example of kindness by defending an actor, who only spreads happiness through his acting. Let’s work for peace and happiness together
Ashwin Mushran @ashwinmushran: When you lose the ability to laugh at yourselves or accept a joke you pretty much allow yourself to regress as people
Suhel Seth @suhelseth: Kiku Sharda should be awarded for mimicking a mimic. Poor chap. Who'd waste time on that Ram Rahim Gurmeet bloke?
'Comedians should draw some limit'
Raju Shrivastav, comedian
This is a democratic country, where people can speak out their mind; but yes, artists, cartoonists and comedians should draw some limit to what they portray. There should not be any personal attack, religious sentiments should not be hurt, and national integrity should not be compromised. Comedy should bind everyone together. (Read more)