What is the price of political comedy? Is the political also personal? At what point does it also obstruct freedom of speech? Mumbai-based stand-up comedian, Agrima Joshua has been at the receiving end of violent, particularly, gender-based, threats on social media. The rape-threats, which were increasing rapidly because of a video recording of her stand-up comedy session criticising a few followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji.
In the short video, Agrima is articulating the hilarity and supposed power of the Chhatrapati Shivaji statue that is upcoming in Maharashtra. She re-iterates the ridiculous answers she found on the public question-and-answer forum Quora about the divinity of said statue. In her entire comedy bit, sarcasm, self-awareness, dissection of identity through dissent, and notions of hilarity are present when it comes to the nature of politics and symbolised figures in our country. But what sent her comedy over the edge, especially on social media, was when she focused on the Chhatrapati Shivaji and the enthusiasm reflected in these Quora answers. The fanatic elements of worshipping historical figures may not be all that different from worshipping pop culture icons. However, the latter does not mould your identity in such close proximity.
As reported by India Today, “In a video posted on Twitter, Joshua apologised for hurting the sentiments of the followers of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj and even cut the section that sparked controversy out of the larger YouTube video.” There was a backlash from the Maharashtra government as well as from enthusiasts from across the country.
HT further reports, “Vadodara City Police took suo moto action in respect of an abusive, threatening video which was uploaded and shared on Social media by Shubham Mishra. We have detained him and initiated the legal process for registration of FIR against him under the relevant sections of the IPC and the IT act,” Vadodara Police stated in their tweet.
Patriarchal ideas that hurt women and men seem to be festering even in the face of progress and sensitisation efforts. It becomes essential to look at incidents such as this with a nuanced lens. It is, more than often, not a black and white situation. Other historical ideas and systems seem to be at work here, and they must and should be considered.
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