This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Simran Mendon. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Munawar Faruqui: The Muslim Man Who Dared Take Central Stage

More from Simran Mendon

The problem was never the joke. In fact, it never really is. It is not the joke itself – the content of it, the invocations, the delivery, the manoeuvring of historicity – touching religions and related deities that offend. It is the person offending. His marginality and the attempt to own it, his socio-economic privileges, his perceived ability to sway rationality. As we continue to live in BJP’s India the criteria list has become shorter. His existence is enough.

Munawar Faruqui is a comedian in jail. He has spent close to twenty days in jail for a joke he never cracked. On the insistence of a BJP MLA’s son – who also happens to be the chief of Hind Rakshak Sanghatan and had overheard allegedly jokes being cracked about Hindu deities and Amit Shah – Faruqui was arrested by the Indore police. There is no video or visual evidence of the crime committed. Audience testimonies have overwhelmingly shown that no derogatory joke was made. They say that Faruqui had only just taken centre stage when he was apprehended and even then, had apologised if anyone had been hurt for any possible thing he may have said or done.

Two bail requests have already been rejected by the competent court. UP Police is now seeking Faruqui’s custody. When asked about the fact that there had been zero credible evidence against the accused and yet he had been arrested, the Indore SP reportedly said, “It does not matter.”

It’s true. It does not matter, the joke. The goons in the Comedy Club that fateful day had arrived there not with the intention to laugh and hear jokes but to heckle. And to their blessed advantage, a Muslim man had just taken centre stage.

Because it is not as though comedians have completely abandoned their liberty to make jokes about religion.

Even in this hyper-religious, nationalistic, politically polarised climate, there are still the Kunal Kamras and Vir Das’ and Varun Grovers that are allowed – albeit pitiably – to exist. Their rightful liberties become an exercise of democracy, and the State’s suppression of those: a suppression of dissent.

But remember, these are attacks on dissent. Not on personhood. These men are questioned because, for the ‘protectors’ of the Hindu dignity, they are not perfect representatives of the faith. They are foul-mouthed, authority questioning, English speaking and so on. They are questioned because they seemingly lower the mantle of Brahmanical patriarchy that they are called to uphold. Theirs is the crime of inconformity; of rejecting the perfect identities they belong to.

It is “How dare you make these jokes?”

But Faruqui conforms. He is exactly what they perceive minorities – Muslim men in particular – to be. Offensive, immoral, anarchists, the ‘Other’. Miscreants in a land that does not belong to them; incompatible with the larger demographic, invaders of ‘pure’ culture.

Impediments to the eventual Hindu Rashtra. As a result, they need to be constantly subdued, reminded their place, disenfranchised; their voices are part of a herd almost always either misrepresented or dismissed.

It is “How dare you make these jokes?”

Representational image.

Yes, it might seem grim when the counter-argument is always that our Constitution itself does not allow you to ‘offend religious sentiments’ – which is surprisingly the only time these fundamentalist factions rely on Dr Ambedkar’s Constitution – but these criteria for offence are kept intentionally abstract, so as to delay the process of the actual indictment. Because surprise, surprise, morality is abstract. Interpretation of a joke is abstract. There are people who might be so enraged by a cartoon of a prophet that they justify murder. And then there are people whose faith stands unrattled by it.

And who the hell decides who deserves jail time for something like this?

So why not, for now, spare the discourse of why freedom of expression is necessary and why artists need independence for their art and so on. Yes, the conversation is important but we’re talking about something deeper here: identity.

Munawar Faruqui’s identity is the fault here.

His exercise of democracy, his taking up of the spotlight, his grabbing of the microphone and stage; the revolting and at the same time, owning of his marginalisation is the crime. It is the intersectionality of his inequalities that are the reason for his never-ending jail ordeal. And those who are at the top celebrate this.

So if you, in your privilege, still are apolitical. If you still believe ‘these things happen’. If you believe comedians must not make offensive jokes. This is for you. It is our identities that are politicised.

We are heckled for our thoughts, persecuted for our beliefs; our bodies are part of political trials and while that continues, our voices are unimaginably censored. This is not a fair society, let alone a democratic one.

Democracy is dying, and it is certain, the joke seems more real than ever.

You must be to comment.

More from Simran Mendon

Similar Posts

By Kritika Nautiyal

By Simran Pavecha

By Jeet

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below