No country for artists! Stand-up comic Kunal Kamra gets death threats online

Updated: Mar 18, 2017, 11:13 IST | Mohar Basu

Comedian Kunal Kamra laments that voices of dissent are being crushed, says he needs to stand up for the rights of the comic fraternity to stop the spread of fear and pressure

Kunal Kamra
Kunal Kamra

Comedian though he is, Kunal Kamra isn't sure whether he can just laugh off the death threats he has been receiving since publishing his March 1 video, 'Patriotism And Governance', making pertinent points about demonetisation and its link with patriotism. "This is not the way to disagree with someone. What does 'Tu bachega nahin' mean?" he asked.

Yesterday, the stand-up comedian took to social networking sites to point out that he has been a number of receiving threats from anonymous groups.

He wrote, "Adding me to random WhatsApp groups, abusing me will not make me love this country and become a patriot; that's not how you convert people."

When mid-day reached out to him, he elaborated on the series of incidents that were responsible for triggering his outburst on social media.

"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," he reasoned.

"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, humein pata hai', 'Bharat mata ki kasam, tu nahin bachega'. All of this suggested that people have been tracking my whereabouts and shows just to attack me."

He's not sure what to make of the threats that have been pouring in though.

"I know nothing will happen because these are just people who hide behind false identities on social media. But this is not the way to disagree with someone. What does 'Tu bachega nahin' mean? I am not even sure if it qualifies as a death threat. I guess they want to bash me up."

Though the comedian is yet to file a police complaint, he thought it's necessary to first put out a warning to those threatening him.

"A few of those who had threatened me even apologised publicly. When I saw their profiles, they looked like regular people, not goons. Some techies and bank professionals, but none of them seemed so politically aggressive that they'd want to kill me. But you can't be certain of something like this," he added.

Taking a hit
Asked if he will try to be more subtle next time, he responded: "I honestly don't know if I need to tone down after this. Whatever I was to perform post the video has been cancelled so far."

"The moment you present an opinion that doesn't match with the popular one, you are doomed. But when people like Satish Upadhyay (president of Delhi unit of BJP) take on me, their followers come after me in multitudes. We can't keep quiet always. If something happens at my show, legitimate action will be taken," he added.

Stand up for others
Kamra said that it had become a matter of 'national pride' only because he had commented on people in power.

"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?" he questioned.

But that won't stop Kamra from standing up for the rights of the comic fraternity.

"I am an upper-caste Hindu male, and thus, by society's standards, considered a more privileged man. But what if another comedian, like Aditi Mittal, wants to speak up? I can't imagine the kind of threats she will receive — they will probably be twice as brutal, just because she is a woman. If I don't stand up against this, most people in my fraternity won't be able to speak freely at all and we will reel under pressure and fear."

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