On Sunday, comedian Munawar Iqbal Faruqui was scheduled to perform at Good Shepherd Auditorium. The proceeds from tickets were to be donated to late Puneeth Rajkumar’s organisation for charity, which the team hadn’t revealed earlier as they didn’t want to sell tickets in charity’s name. His show ‘Dongri to Nowhere’ has garnered praise all over the country, but the Bengaluru police asked organisers to shut it down in their city citing ‘law and order’ issues.
This came on the heels of over 20 cancelled shows in a span of two months. These recent events have naturally pushed the comedian to the edge. The comedian, who was arrested in January 2021 for a joke he didn’t tell only to spend over a month in jail, posted a note saying, “Nafrat jeet gayi, artist haar gaya (hate has won, the artist has lost)… I’m done.” Earlier, Faruqui also had to cancel his Mumbai shows when Bajrang Dal members travelled from Gujarat to threaten the venue owners with violence if they didn’t bar him from performing. Faruqui had tweeted saying, “The safety of the audience is what matters most to me. I don’t want my audience to go through what I am experiencing.”
I met Munawar for the first time on November 20. I realised very soon that he would be one of the few people in my life I would fight diligently for. Anybody who has ever met that man knows for a fact that his sincerity is incomparable. To punish an artist for being himself, his best self, is the lot of a dictatorship.
Make no mistake. Munawar Faruqui is not repeatedly attacked by the saffron brigade because of something he has said. He was jailed over a joke he didn’t even get to make. “Mujhe stage se uthake leke jaate hai,” he often jokes. The allegations against hom exist simply because he’s Muslim, because he’s the ‘other’ and because he’s loved.
He is a gift, in more ways than one. And while the 35 days of his wrongful incarceration and the trauma of 22 cancelled shows bring inexplicable pain, he will never be alone in this war.
Here goes my letter, written in a room that went eerily silent on Sunday.
Don’t you cry.
The world is its own villain,
It robs the innocent of their homes,
and seeks God among the fallen.
Munawar, in your innocence,
the suffering have found respite
but the wicked call it sedition
and burn the nation with its might.
Munawar, why must you cry?
they value not the wounded heart
they, who build sparkling kingdoms
upon the graves of workers
even before they depart.
Munawar, don’t be upset,
every soul in this nation is in a bind,
some choking under the ruler’s feet,
some held captive by their filthy mind.
Munawar, in your deep sorrow,
we recognise our own failures,
but this quicksand isn’t consuming you alone,
the very soil beneath our feet is treacherous.
Munawar, amid a flood of complaints,
you’ve taught the soul how to smile,
cradling trauma in your hardened palms,
you’ve gifted paradise, even to the hostile.
Munawar, in your absence,
thousands of hearts will wilt
but no army can stifle the roar
of a revolution we have built.
Munawar, these handcuffs,
will be worn, in turn, by us all
this country’s tradition of hatred
will be every citizen’s downfall.
A lot of words are yet to shared,
Some yours, some ours to supply,
but don’t lose yourself in this turmoil,
our dear, Munawar, don’t you cry.
Tu rona mat.
Ye duniya apni dushman hai,
masoom ko bedakhal kiye
mujrim mein khuda dhundte hai
Munawar, teri nadaaniyat se,
Tune zehni aziyat ko hasaya hai
Usi nadaaniyat ko barood elaan kiye
inhone desh ko jalaya jai
Munawar, tujhe kyu rona hai?
Ye aansu woh kya samjhenge,
jo mazduron ke qabro pe
apna hukumat basate hai
Munawar, tu ruthna mat,
Is desh ke log sab zakhmi hai
Koi hukmaran ke paao tale
koi napaak zahan mein qaidi hai
Munawar, tere udaasi mein,
hume apni nakaami dikhti hai,
is daldal me doobe tum akele nahi,
humare paao tale bhi ghadar mitti hai.
Munawar, shikayaton ke mele mein,
tune rooh ko hasna sikhaya hai,
gham ko hatheyli pe rakhke,
dusro jo jannat dilaya hai.
Munawar, tere na-maujuudgi mein,
hazaaron log murcha jayenge,
lekin inquilaab ka goonj
afvaaj shaant na kar payenge
Munawar, ye hathkadiyan,
hum sab baari baari pehenge,
nafrat-e-riwayaat is desh ki
hum sab ko bnaate jayenge
Bohot si baatein baaki hai,
kuch tere, kuch humare bhi,
is aziat mein tu khona mat,
Munawar, tu rona mat.
Meghalee Mitra is a littérateur and hopes to change the world, one word at a time.
Featured image: Pariplab Chakraborty