Just how Joseph K, without having done anything wrong, was arrested by the court in Franz Kafka’s The Trial, Munawar Faruqui is regularly being throttled by the Hindutva extremists for crimes he never committed.
“Somebody must have made a false accusation against Joseph K., for he was arrested one morning without having done anything wrong.” These are the opening lines from Franz Kafka’s magnum opus, The Trial, published posthumously by his friend; who was told by Kafka himself that all his unpublished works should be destroyed after his death. Max Brod, who also worked as a literary executor, obviously saw some merit in his friend’s work that the world was yet to cherish. The novel became an instant cultural sensation soon after its publication and is now considered to be a cult classic in the world literature. Following the themes of absurdity, government control, injustice and alienation, Kafka is presumed to have left this work unfinished. Although, there's one chapter which can be interpreted as a possible resolution. But even if not for the interpretation, Kafka’s abandonment of The Trial serves as a fine poetic justice to the misery faced by our main guy. Joseph K. Almost a century later, the novel seems to draw parallels with the contemporary artists and their lives.
Back in 2014, when Narendra Modi was elected as the Prime Minister of India after his unprecedented win — many cheered and some feared — that his Gujarat model will be implemented throughout the country. If the execution was with the roads and highways, driving on Indian roads wouldn't have been a problem after seven years of his governance. But on the contrary, the vilifying and unjust model of Gujarat was presented in front of a constitutionally secular nation that has resulted in bloodshed, lynchings and a staunch intolerance against freedom of expression. After seven years of BJP’s (Bhartiya Janata Party) constant divisive policies and anti-minority speeches, India has managed to divide itself into two halves. Yes. Vir Das is right. We do come from two Indias. One which is tolerant towards art and the other which wants to diminish anything and everything that doesn't align with their sycophantic nationalist ideas.
Amassing millions of views on his YouTube channel, comedian Munawar Faruqui’s year was going all his way in 2020. His stand-up shows were all houseful, but only until January 1st, 2021. While he was performing in one of the café’s in Indore, one of the cities in central India, a group of intruders walked in and raised objection against the ‘content’ of his jokes. The intruder, Aklavya Gaur, who belonged to one of the subdivisions of the BJP, the party at the centre, asked Munawar to stop the show as some of his jokes hurt his ‘religious sentiments’. Munawar, calmly started to explain Aklavya that he has not even started the show yet and reemphasised that there is no joke in his set that would hurt sentiments of any religion or person. “I have made more jokes on my community (Muslims) than on any other”, he stated. An audience member was smart enough to record the entire incident where Aklavya seemed to be talking for an entire community, whereas many people in audience sided with Munawar; a lady is seen to have screamed “Sir, Hindu-Muslim are brothers”. The show was obstructed and it didn't go till the finish line. Later that night, Munawar Faruqui was arrested under Sections 295-A, 298, 269, 188 & 34 of the IPC for Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.
Munawar and Joseph K’s story diverge and converge at many points. Joseph K spent the rest of his days guessing and thinking over his crime which was not stated by the courts. Whereas the police charged Munawar for crimes he never committed. K was not jailed, but he faced the trial. Munawar was jailed and was not given bail for the next 37 days. The police in Indore stated in the press communication that the evidence against the comedian is solely based on the intruder’s statements.
In his novel, Kafka talks about injustice of the judiciary system and the draconian nature of his arrest. Faruqui, anguished after his 15th show got canceled in a row — the Hindutva outfits threatened him and the localites — wrote an Instagram post where he said that he was quitting. He ended the caption by all caps INJUSTICE. The comedy fraternity and some other artists were quick to pour in with support. But a few comments in support is something that he hardly cares about as like any other artist, he craves for the field. In his case its the stage and a live audience. After spending over a month in jail for something he never did, he is constantly been throttled by right-wing goons with little or no help from the local police. Here’s where the absurdity takes charge. The opposition in the court has not found anything against him, he is out on bail and he is legally allowed to brown his bread. But now the problem doesn't seem to be his art. The cog is him. A Muslim comedian who raised from the rags and made a name for himself. A Muslim man who has a mouth to speak and dares to question the widespread fascism. This seems to be a problem more than anything else.
The case doesn't end here. Student leader and scholar Umar Khalid faces a chargesheet of 1.1 million pages and is still in jail for more than a year under UAPA. His crime? Well, he quoted Mahatma Gandhi in his speeches and he is also a Muslim with a voice. Faruqui with Khalid and numerous other political prisoners such as Varavara Rao, Anand Teltumbde, Gautam Navlakha, Vernon Gonsalves, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Sudhir Dhawale and Rona Wilson are living inside a Kafka novel. All wrongfully arrested and all have one thing in common: They have been staunch critics of Modi’s divisive politics. They are facing atrocities which are often laughed off at a dinner table of undeservingly privileged individuals. Chargesheet, imprisonment, unnecessary media coverage, fake news, etc. These are some of the realities which they are going through every day in what seems to be Modi’s New India.
Kafka never finished this novel. Although, as said in the beginning, that one chapter can be interpreted as a possible ending. But it is better if there is no ending if not for restoration of justice and law. If Munawar Furuqui meets Franz Kafka today, they will probably get along fine. Maybe share a laughter or two beside a swimming pool; a part of Kafka’s personality which is rarely talked about and only came out much later when his sketches and notebooks were released online. The pool of divide and unethical governance is a deeper one and it is difficult to find a ground when an egotistical party is in power. The whole world is watching India as it slips down the stairs of democracy and gets engulfed into the carpet of hate. The witchcraft carpet which is driven by a man who claims to be a Gandhian but his past and present tells a different story altogether. Because For Hindutva extremists like him, violence is a lifestyle and intolerance is breakfast.
I don't have a conclusion here as I myself am a part of a system which is Kafkaesque. A truly rotten system where even before you are done talking about one tragic event, another one unfolds in front of your eyes, and then another one, and then another one.
One of my earlier articles on politics were featured by Medium a few months back. Check out this link.