IndiGo on Tuesday barred stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra for six months for allegedly heckling journalist Arnab Goswami onboard a flight from Mumbai to Lucknow. Air India also said Kamra has been suspended from flying with it until further notice.
Goswami, founder of Republic TV, was in for a rude shock when stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra accosted him on a flight on Tuesday. Kamra, who has filmed the entire incident and posted the same on social media, has called Goswami out for his journalism, calling him a ‘coward’ among other things. In a video clip posted by Kamra on Twitter, the stand-up comedian is seen asking Goswami if he is a "coward or a journalist".
Goswami, who can be seen glued to his laptop in the video with earphones plugged in, did not respond to Kamra’s questions and comments that included a reference to the death of student Rohit Vemula.
"Viewers want to know if Arnab today is a coward or a nationalist. Arnab, this is for national interest. I am part of the tukde-tukde narrative. You should deflate me. You should take the enemy of the states down. You should make sure that the country is in safe hands of Narendra Modi."
"You should fight against dynasts like Rahul Gandhi, who I support, on 10 Tughlaq Lane. Arnab, you should have a reply, Arnab. Arnab, are you a coward or are you a journalist? Are you a coward or are you a journalist or a nationalist? Who are you, Arnab? Who are you?" Kamra can be heard as saying in the video clip.
"You know, you do not deserve my politeness. This is not for you. This is for Rohith Vemula's mother whose caste you were discussing on your...show. I know this is not allowed. This is fine. It's fine if it is not allowed. I'd go to jail for this.
"But this is for Rohit's mother. And go...find time and read that 10-page suicide letter that Rohit wrote so that you have some emotion or some heart or you just become human. Do that. Do that you in your free time. You nationalist," Kamra can be further heard as saying.
"In light of the recent incident on board 6E 5317 from Mumbai to Lucknow, we wish to inform that we are suspending Mr. Kunal Kamra from flying with IndiGo for a period of six months, as his conduct onboard was unacceptable behaviour. Hereby, we wish to advise our passengers to refrain from indulging in personal slander whilst onboard, as this can potentially compromise the safety of fellow passengers," said IndiGo on Twitter.
Kamra responded to IndiGo's decision by saying "thank you Indigo a six month suspension is honestly very kind of you".
The Twitter post by Kamra went instantly viral. 'Arnab', 'Indigo' (sic), 'Kamra' and 'Kunal' have been top Twitter trends on Tuesday. At around 2130 hours, there were 122,000 tweets about Arnab, 32,000 tweets about indigo, 64,000 tweets about Kamra.
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri exhorted other airlines to take the cue from IndiGo and impose "similar restrictions" on Kamra.
"Offensive behaviour designed to provoke & create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable & endangers safety of air travellers. We are left with no option but to advise other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the person concerned," tweeted Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri.
Apart from Air India, other airlines have not stated if they will be doing the same.
Queries sent by PTI to other Indian airlines - AirAsia India, SpiceJet and GoAir - on whether they are taking similar action against Kamra remained unanswered.
A Vistara spokesperson told PTI, "Vistara stands firm with its zero-tolerance policy against any behaviour or act that compromises the safety, security and dignity of its customers and staff. We will follow due process."
With inputs from PTI