Terrorised by trolls, comedians apologise for hurting religious sentiments

Many comedians reported that their numbers and addresses had been leaked and that they were getting threats to life and that of their families too

Image Courtesy:indiatimes.com

It all started with the vilification of comedian Agrima Joshua. The rape threats and verbal abuse aimed at her for joking about the misinformation surrounding the statue of Shivaji Maharaj, that she encountered on a QnA platform by one Shubham Mishra, opened the floodgates for hatred for right-wing trolls who followed in his footsteps and unleashed an organised attack against her on social media, forcing her to apologize for her video and take it down from all platforms.

The pattern of hate spread by right-wing trolls has now become very predictable and racial slurs, communal slurs, rape threats and threats to life are all part of the mix. A look at the trolls, their armies and affiliations will show that they have appointed themselves to be gatekeepers of nationalism.

Abuses and apologies

Recently, the government of India banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok which was a means of income to thousands in India. The move was lauded by many as a fitting answer to the Chinese government, currently with whom there is an ongoing conflict at the LAC. However, when stand-up comic Kenny Sebastian questioned the apathy coming in from some because the ban didn’t affect them directly, he was trolled and subject to communal slurs where he was called a ‘rice bag convert’ – a derogatory term used by some right-wing Hindutva followers to shame Christians saying that they don’t follow the religion due to their religious belief but have converted for the proposed benefits that come with following a religion.


After Joshua was villified, more comedians came forward to issue apologies after being targeted by trolls, reported Scroll.in.

On July 14, comedian Sahil Shah saying that years ago when he had centred a joke on Shivaji Maharaj, he didn’t know it would offend people and hurt their religious sentiments. Sahil was called a ‘jihadi’ by a Twitter handle called ‘The Hindu Voice’ and followers of this handle had tagged everyone from the CM of Maharashtra to the cyber cell and MNS officials to take action against him.


Tweeting, Shah apologised profusely for the same and said that he would make responsible comedy in the future.


Soon, comic Aadar Malik too released a video apologising for an 8-year-old video which had been dug up to target him. People questioned him for making jokes on Hindu gods but not on other faiths questioning whether the Indian minority would tolerate the same.



In his video, Malik said that there was a lot of hate he was receiving on social media, including threats to his family and that it had become a very scary atmosphere to live in.


Rohan Joshi, one of the co-founders of the former comedy group AIB too put out an apology on Instagram after he too was targeted.


Saying that he was going offline for a few days and that his number and address had been leaked. He mentioned that the last few days had been a circus of abuse, threats, 2 A.M calls and anxious spirals. Apologising for offending anyone’s sentiments, he pleaded for his family to be left alone.



A post shared by Rohan Joshi (@mojorojo) on

In the same vein, comedian Azeem Banatwalla for his tweets made many years ago and said that while he was not looking to make an excuse, people had been pouring the vilest of Islamophic slurs at him.


Comedian Sapan Verma too apologised for a wrong, immature and distasteful tweet.


Throughout these attacks, one thing was common – comedians were accused of being anti-Hindu. However, in bid to bust that narrative, comedian Abijit Ganguly took to Twitter to point out that branding all comedians as anti-Hindu was wrong because no content of two comedians was alike.


Comedian Saurav Ghosh was recently brutally beaten up with a helmet for making a joke on confusion arising about which airport people had to report to due to both airports being named after Shivaji Maharaj.


The comedians also faced open threat to their safety with some comparing them to hate offender Kamlesh Tiwari who had made controversial remarks against Prophet Muhammed in 2015. He was allegedly shot at in his home in 2019. Now right-wing trolls are comparing comedians to him and demanding that Hindus show their intolerance towards them.


Comedians like Vir Das also put out sarcastic videos targeting the outrage towards stand-up comics, pointing out how there were a selective number of people focusing on digging up instances of offensive comedy instead of questioning the more pressing topics.


In response to trolls and abusive misogynists, a group of female comedians too put out a sarcastic video titled ‘Women Finally Apologist For Everything’, to show the continuous vilification they suffered at the hands of those sitting behind keyboards and issuing open rape threats with impunity.


A political pattern to the organised abuse?

Speaking with Scroll.in, Ravina Rawal, editor of DeadAnt, an online publication that tracks the Indian comedy scene said, “Comics have a young, captive audience running into the tens of millions, they have the power to influence new voters and set a narrative. To add to that is the impression that all comics are liberals or lefties.”

A pattern observed in all the trolling is that it comes from many who claim to be nationalists and followers of Sanatan Dharm or are affiliated to the right-wing. All of these trolls have dug up old videos of comedians and tagged the MVA Maharashtra government to take action against them, even though the videos were made during the time of the previous government. One can question if this too is in a bid to pressure  the current state government to prove their affiliation towards the majority community and move away from the liberal image it is trying to create by connecting with the youth in its causes.

This could be the reason why the Maharashtra government, even while issuing an inquiry against those who threatened Joshua, also said that they would review her video too. Instead, the government should look at the above evidence and stop this targeted hate campaign, stop people from taking law into their own hands and curb the anarchy that is ready to brim over.

Nobody could’ve fathomed that comedy and laughter would become resistance movements in India. With comedians being increasingly targeted, especially for their jokes revolving around politics, it is now to be seen if comedy as a form of resistance will take a more defined shape or be hacked out by right-wing guards of nationalism.


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