Indian comedian Vir Das faced online backlash for his “I come from two Indias” monologue at the John F Kennedy Centre in Washington DC on Monday from Hindu right wing activists who accused him of defaming his country.
Towards the end of his segment, the 42-year-old standup comic narrated a poem called “two Indias” on some of the contrasting aspects of his homeland.
Das covered issues from farmers’ protests and Covid-19 to petrol price hike during his six-minute monologue.
“I come from an India where we bleed blue every time we play green but every time we lose to green we turn orange all of a sudden/I come from an India where children in masks hold hands with each other and yet, I come from an India where leaders hug each other without masks,” Das said, alluding to India’s historic rivalry with Pakistan on and off the cricket field. The Indian team wears blue jerseys against the green worn by Pakistani cricket players.
“I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang-rape them during the night/I come from an India where journalism is supposedly dead because men in fancy studios, in fancy suits, give each other handjobs and yet women on road with laptops are telling the truth,” he said. Das was adding his voice to growing criticism about a politically compromised media and rising crimes against women in a country where they are also worshipped as various forms of Hindu goddesses.
While Das received praise from many people for his “honesty,” some accused him of “anti-India propaganda under the garb of comedy.”
Indian right-wing portal OpIndia called Das’s monologue an “unhinged rant” against India.
OpIndia wrote: Das “tried to paint Hindus as intolerant and antagonistic to Muslims” in addition to suggesting “that Hindus become adversarial to Muslims whenever the Indian cricket team loses to Pakistan. However, nothing can be further from the truth.”
According to another Twitter user: “Imagine any foreign comedian saying stuff like these in India. Show some responsibility, making a mockery of our nation in front of people who don’t even care. Btw Vir Das, are you even a comedian?”
Das also received support from various quarters.
Ex-General Secretary of All India Congress Committee Digvijay Singh wrote: “Must watch this video of Two Indias. Excellent Satire. To add to his list I would like to add. Two Indias One who robs and other which gets robbed. Do you agree Vir?”
Technology journalist Abhishek Baxi added: “This is absolutely brilliant from Vir Das. The art we need for the times.”
Das was quick to issue a statement of his own asking everyone to not be “fooled by edited snippets”.
He wrote on Twitter: “Like any nation has light and dark, good and evil within it. None of this is a secret.”
“I take pride in my country, and I carry that pride across the world. To me, a room full of people anywhere in the world, giving India an ovation is pure love,” he added. “I ask of you, the same thing I asked of that audience...to focus on the light, remember our greatness, and spread the love.”
Indian comics have faced backlash in the past, especially from the right-wing, for satire on subjects the conservatives deem an insult to the nation and to Hindu religion.
Indian comedian Munawar Faruqui, who had spent more than a month in jail for a joke he didn’t crack, has said he is not being allowed to work because of relentless threats and abuses from right-wing vigilante groups.
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