An Indian comedian, actor and comedy musician has been forced to defend himself against online accusations of “insulting the country” after he performed a “two Indias” monologue in the United States.
Vir Das, 42, is one of India’s top satirical performers, known for his sharp takes on the rise of the ruling right-wing party with Hindu nationalist positions in the country.
Critics often say intolerance against minority communities, mainly Muslims, has intensified in India since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, and that freedom of speech is under threat in the world’s biggest democracy.
In a nearly seven-minute-long video posted on Monday, he covered issues ranging from air pollution, journalism, and Modi’s coronavirus relief efforts to cricket.
“I come from an India where we bleed blue every time we play green,” Das told a packed Washington, DC, venue during his current world tour, referring to the sporting uniforms of his country and archrival Pakistan.
“But every time we lose to green, we turn orange all of a sudden.” Orange refers to a muscular Hindu nationalism, often symbolised by the colour saffron.
“I come from an India that will watch this and know there is a gigantic joke. It just isn’t funny,” he said.
“I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang rape them at night.”
Soon after Das released the video on social media, users accused him of insulting India on the global stage, and at least two police complaints were filed against him.
Das took to Twitter insisting the video was a “satire about the duality of two separate Indias that do different things”.
“Like any nation has light and dark, good and evil within it,” he posted.
— Vir Das (@thevirdas) November 16, 2021