The comedy collective AIB took down its Bollywood “Roast” from YouTube after protests from a political party. The show members also apologised profusely to the Christian community at large through the Archbishop of Mumbai. The show’s attempt at bringing “insult” comedy to India may have been a success with Internet users but the point is all freedoms, including freedom of speech, come with reasonable restraint, even according to our Constitution.
It is also arguable whether references to body parts constitute acceptable comedy. The right to offend may be assumed by the comedian whose art revolves around poking fun at people, but such jabs must stop short of extremes and not lead to fracas or a public show of retaliatory strength, which can only take us back to the days of the caveman. Any public performance must be mindful of overall good sense.
This is just not an issue about the freedom of speech and expression. Not even the Charlie Hebdo fiasco was all about the freedoms. It is only right to decry terrorism and terrorists, but must we drag their Prophet, their gods or their Christ into the issue is well worth weighing before wading into arguments over liberalism. It is particularly relevant to a new India that is embracing change in many ways and yet is conservative in other areas.
It is not only the illiberal attitude of the ideologists which is the problem. Any offence against someone else’s religion strikes at a specifically sensitive subject in the country. Common sense dictates that performers should realise this. But, as it transpires, common sense is not so common.