Is India Ready For Jokes On Politics?

By Prerna Magan:

Since the rise of OTT, stand-up comedy got more popularised amongst the masses. It became hugely popular in India and introduced us to so many incredible comedians.

But it seems like joking has become a crime in the world’s largest democracy. Have we become that intolerant that the people of our country can’t handle a joke? Or is it just the thoughts and opinions fed to us indirectly or directly by the people around us?

In the past decade, India saw a significant change in the economy. Sometime back, people referred to newspapers or credible sources and then made opinions, but now we have WhatsApp university.

Jokes aside, do you think we have Freedom of Speech, or it just looks good written in the constitution without any application in real-life?

Is India Afraid Of Political Humor?

Many of the comedians are talking about politics and the political situation of India not because they think it’s funny. They are doing it just because someone has to address such issues.

The way satire is like a mirror to society is quite amusing. Behind these jokes lies the ugly truth. The thoughts that we keep inside our minds, for whatever reasons, are addressed by comedians.

But what happens to them then? Well, they are either thrown out of their apartments, trolled on social media, or face legal actions. So naturally, many of them either start self-censoring to limit any backlash, or they stop talking about political issues.

Arresting comedians who talk about politics, making FIRs against them, and threatening them are becoming the new normal.

There is absolutely no government critic among opposition parties, media, NGOs, activists, or even the general public today who is not afraid of government retaliation. All this has affected free speech in India as everyone is self-censoring.

Kenny Sebastian did a segment on the same. He stated that the reason he doesn’t joke about politics is that he’s scared, which is a perfectly reasonable defence. “ he continues,

What is concerning is that the intolerance we are seeing in the people of our country. Recently, comedian Munawar Faruqui got arrested and was in jail for over a month for a joke he didn’t make.

Other comedians like Vir Das and Kunal Kamra got FIRs under their name. We know Kunal Kamra’s favourite topics are Modi, Arnab Goswami, and Ambani. Kamra’s repetitive jokes and attacks on these people got him immense fame and threats. Many Indians even criticized Hasan Minhaj for being too political.

The law on hurting religious sentiments is a non-bailable offence. It is an important law that respects the religious views of the people of our country but the same law is being used to censor the voices of people that expose those in power.

Remarkably, the stand-up scene in India is changing. Comedians are critiquing and questioning the authorities. However, for political satire to grow, we must go beyond and increase the boundaries of comedy.

The Indian stand-up scene still lacks a lot. It does not have many women, Trans, or comedians from the LGBTQ community. There is not much inclusion of minority voices and marginalized experiences that makes the English-speaking, upper class, elite audience uncomfortable.

Comedians need to get out of their comfort zone or the safe area. The youth engagement that they have is immense, and they still need to talk about the horrors in our country that might not sound funny to many.

Something that the citizens of this country need to understand is that the politicians are not God. We need to stop pedestalizing them. As a democracy, we are allowed to criticize them for their wrongdoings. We have the power not them and somewhere many Indians have forgotten that.

The satire needs to make people think and question. It is easy to make jokes, but it is challenging to understand the reason behind making that joke.

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