Kiku Sharda. Photo:
Kiku Sharda. Photo:

Kiku Sharda finds godmen don’t have a sense of humor

Kiku Sharda was arrested for mimicking Dera Sacha Sauda chief and self-proclaimed godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh 'Insaan'

I don’t find Comedy Nights With Kapil funny or entertaining at all. Or Comedy Nights Bachao. Or Comedy Superstar. Or Grand Masti. Or Kya Kool Hai Hum. Or for that matter— MSG, Messenger Of God. To me, these are an assault on the senses and an insult to my intelligence—especially the last of the lot. Which is why I rarely if ever watch any of these shows or films—other than for the sake of my art. Because that’s the sensible thing to do when you don’t like something. Mock it, criticize it, and if it still gets on your nerves ignore and avoid it. That’s what people with an IQ above 25 would do. Even smart animals know that.

But in India, if you’re well-connected and of the easily offended variety, you insist that people not only appreciate whatever you do, but also compliment it. This can range from your politics to your films to your journalism. And you can use the law to beat sense into the heads of your critics—as comedian Kiku Sharda found out the day before.

Sharda, who is a comedian with Comedy Nights With Kapil, was arrested on 12 January at 1 am from Mumbai by the Haryana police and brought to Kaithal, Haryana where he was placed under 14 days judicial custody. He has since been released on bail of 1 lakh, re-arrested in another district and then re-released.

Sharda was arrested for mimicking Dera Sacha Sauda chief and self-proclaimed godman Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh ‘Insaan’ and thereby hurting “religious sentiments" on Zee’s New Year special Jashn-E-Ummeed on 27 December.

Whose religious sentiments? That of sect member Uday Singh, who told India Today, “he (Kiku) was shown dressed up like our respected guruji. He was shown with liquor and dancing with two girls. He did a mockery of guruji. Whosoever saw it, their feelings were hurt". And thanks to Section 295 A of the IPC (outraging religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), Sharda found himself carted to Haryana from Mumbai and behind bars.

The godman of course distanced himself from the entire incident, feigning ignorance and then magnanimity by tweeting—“I was busy shooting OnlineGurukul; just got to know, devotees are hurt due to Kiku’s action.If he has apologized, no complaint from my side". His ignorance of the incident is especially surprising if you have watched MSG – Messenger Of God, as I have. In the film, we are clearly told that Gurmeet Ram Rahim is an antaryaami and knows everything that is happening in the world at any given time – in the past, present and future. That Kiku Sharda’s arrest is yet another example of the clampdown on freedom of expression is stating the obvious. What is worrying is the kind of people who can make magistrates and police jump to attention.

First of all, the Dera Sacha Sauda is not a religion. It is a spiritual organisation. How this law was even applied in this case, is confusing. Second, all that Kiku Sharda did was to mimic him. Sharda has not incited violence or communal hatred, he’s cracked a joke.

Ironically, Gurmeet Ram Rahim was accused in 2007 by the Sikh clergy of impersonating the tenth Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, at a congregation of the sect at Sirsa in Haryana. He then sent an apology letter to the Akal Takht and was pardoned.

What has happened to Kiku Sharda is not amusing from any angle. It’s preposterous and extremely worrying for freedom of expression and is also a shining example of how the law can be used by anyone with clout. The bottom-line is that there are truly too many holy cows in this country. And most of them seem to be overtly sensitive.

No one can stop anyone from believing that they themselves or someone they know is a god, but one has to wonder whether their belief in their “god" is so fragile that they can’t take any criticism of the said god? If anyone has seen MSG – Messenger Of God, they would realise that the good godman seems to be cocking a snook at himself. After all, he can’t seriously believe he can fly through the skies or spend summers in India wearing sparkly and stretchy lycra sleeveless t-shirts and capris, right? It beats me how the humour of his cinema has escaped his followers.