We have seen in recent years not only a rollback on free speech, even in the West, but the targeting of comedians who offend different groups or faiths. The latest such case is found in India where police arrested Kiku Sharda, 40, for mimicking controversial spiritual guru Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh (left). Singh, known as the “guru in bling” is widely ridiculed but a single complaint still led to the arrest of Sharda.
Citizens have discovered a new taste for speech criminalization and censorship, a reduction in free speech values that governments have been happy to foster. For earlier posts and columns, click here and here and here. We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. We have seen comedians targets with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).Even in the United States, comedians are avoiding colleges to avoid speech limitations and complaints.
This one is particularly bizarre given the controversial 48-year-old guru who is under police investigation for allegedly encouraging 400 followers to undergo castrations at his ashram so they could get closer to God. Yet one of his followers saw the show and demanded Sharda’s arrest. Sharma apologized for his act but that not be enough under India’s speech laws. It is certainly not likely to satisfy Singh’s cult-like followers who describe him on his website as an author, inventor, scientist, philosopher, philanthropist, peace activist and “the ultimate humanitarian”. Ultimate humanitarian perhaps but certainly not the ultimate comedian.