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Doubt there's freedom of speech: Comedians Neeti Palta, Appurv Gupta, Sorabh Pant on online policing

Can you really crack a joke and get away on Twitter? Not if you got offended by that AIB meme

T2 Online Newsdesk 17 July 2017, 8:07 PM
Neeti Palta minces no words about the reality of India's sense of humour

Neeti Palta minces no words about the reality of India's sense of humour Image: YouTube

We're living in a strange world in stranger times. You'd be forgiven if you've begun to believe that you inhabit Alice's wonderland where you have no freedom to air your opinion. Why else would AIB get an FIR for a meme on PM Narendra Modi? A meme! A meme, by definition, is meant to be a joke, something you laugh off after reading. In our country, you can expect to receive trolls and policing in return.

Comedians usually take digs at politicians or comment on social issues like beef ban or mob lynching. However, most of them feel that people in India are not quite ready to be criticised or mocked.

Comedienne Neeti Palta points out that since the time of "Akbar and Birbal, comedy has always been used as a tool to sugarcoat hard truths and make them more palatable. And so is the case today". She elaborates, "It reflects the ethos of the era it exists in. Be it a poking fun at intolerance or a bunch of idiots who are all too easily offended, or the current political scenario, or even the alter lives we lead in cyber space. Everything is rich ground for material," she said.

But everything is clearly not taken with a pinch of humour. Stand-up comedian Appurv Gupta, who has more than 200 shows to his credit, says, "These days, everyone is getting hurt over even small things and if we say something that affects them emotionally or forces them to think about their past decisions, then they can go to any level — especially on Internet — and they make sure that either they win the argument, or you stop arguing with them," he rues.

Appurv admits that he thinks twice before writing a small tweet and accounts for the consequences. “I doubt whether I have freedom of speech, specially at this point of time. Things were different 2-3 years back. I don't know whether this change is good or bad for everyone. But, yes, freedom of speech is facing a struggle in India," he adds.

Sorabh Pant concurs, saying he also double-checks his jokes when it is to do with Indian politicians. "I want to make sure that I am not saying anything that is incorrect. I will criticise Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal and Rahul Gandhi, but I am also going to figure out their positive side to keep it balanced because all three of them have quite a vast number of supporters in the country and it is a little unfair to disrespect them," Sorabh reasons.

What bugs Appurv is the simple fact that "online trolls are making sure that even comedians won't say what they want to say". And that's not cool for a democracy. Ask yourself this — can you really let a joke be a joke?

(With inputs from IANS)

Read more:

AIB gets a meme over a NaMo joke by Mumbai Police

Tanmay Bhat responds to the meme FIR

We should be allowed to offend a little: Sorabh Pant

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