The handling of the arrest of comedian Kiku Sharda was itself a rip-roaring comedy. The Haryana chief minister claimed his government had nothing to do with the arrest even after the state police had gone all the way to Mumbai to pick up the artiste who had mimicked the head of Dera Sacha Sauda.
The actor, who features in Comedy Nights with Kapil, was arrested a second time after he had obtained bail because another complaint had been lodged against him. What the episodes demonstrate is that this new-found Indian habit of taking offence to everything has become as much a cult activity as following a religious sect. Self-styled godmen across the religious divide seem to enjoy patronage from politicians proportionate to their following.
Haryana’s rulers, past and present, have been equally guilty of keeping an eye on the ready-made vote bank of this particular cult and the police has always been notorious for swaying with the political wind. It is not so much the draconian laws against acts like offending religious sentiments as the attitude of the rulers that comes into question. The clichéd response that “the law will take its own course” is escapist.
The case involving the comedian shows we neither have the humour to accept jokes nor the capacity to distinguish between what is real and what is artistic representation. Laws should be written, interpreted and acted upon in such a manner that the bad should not get away and the good should not be harassed. Not to make that distinction reflects a failure of a just and democratic society.