Indian comedian Vir Das is facing criticism in India after his 'Two Indias' monologue — which was Das' take on the many social and political contradictions present in the country — went viral on social media.
Das, one of India’s most popular comedians, while performing on tour in the US touched upon a number of issues; from rampant gang rape and the state of journalism to the love-hate relationship with Pakistan to the use of face masks.
“I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang rape them at night," Das told an audience at his show in Washington DC on November 13. “I come from an India where we take pride in being vegetarian, and yet run over the farmers who grow our vegetables.”
The comedian uploaded a video of his hard-hitting words on YouTube on November 15, triggering an onslaught of criticism from politicians and hard-line nationalists, including (no surprise) Kangana Ranaut.
According to The Guardian, Aditya Jha, a spokesperson for the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), filed a police complaint against Das for “insulting the country”. “These derogatory statements against women and India are inflammatory. They were made in the US and malign the image of our country internationally. I want police to conduct an investigation,” said Jha.
Other BJP politicians also spoke up against the monologue. The Mumbai BJP secretary, Vivekanand Gupta, requested the Delhi police to file a case against Das for “hurting the feelings of nationalists”. Meanwhile, the home minister of Madhya Pradesh, Narottam Mishra, banned the comedian from performing in the state.
“Such type of people like him, I call them ‘vidushak’ (jester) would not be allowed to perform in the state. If he (Das) apologises, we are going to think over it,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express.
Criticism came from other parties as well. A leader from the Congress party, Abhishek Singhvi, tweeted that “vilifying the nation as a whole in front of the world is just not done”.
Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut criticised Das on her Instagram Stories, saying that "such creative work targeting an entire race is soft terrorism".
"Strict action must be taken against such criminals,” she added,
However, some came to the comic's defence as well. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that Das was “standing up” for the citizens of India.
Indian politician and a member of parliament, Mahua Moitra, lauded Das for "speaking truth about Two Indias".
Film-maker Hansal Mehta expressed he was "moved" by the comedian's monologue. "I come from an India where it needs courage for a Vir Das to say this," he tweeted.
After facing backlash, the comedian shared a clarification on the matter saying the video was "a satire about the duality of two very separate Indias that do different things".
"The video appeals for us to never forget that we are great," he shared. "I take pride in my country, and I carry that pride across the world. I ask of you the same thing I asked that audience, to focus on the light, remember our greatness and spread the love."
The backlash against Das is not the first time an Indian comic has come under fire; according to Al Jazeera, comedian Munawar Faruqui was held in prison for more than a month after being accused of insulting Hindu gods and goddesses.
This month, he cancelled three shows in Mumbai after a Hindu right-wing group threatened to set the venue on fire.