Comidenne Agrima Joshua (left) and YouTuber Shubham Mishra
Comidenne Agrima Joshua (left) and YouTuber Shubham Mishra Image Credit: Twitter

Dubai: A Mumbai-based stand-up comedienne, Agrima Joshua, found herself in the middle of a social media controversy this weekend, in India. She even received rape and death threats over a 2019 video, in which she allegedly joked about Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a 17th century warrior king, who was the founder of the Maratha kingdom in India.

In the video, Joshua had joked about speculations over the state government's plans to build a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the Arabian Sea.

The comedienne’s comments were criticised by many, including supporters and politicians from Maharashtra’s ruling political party, Shiv Sena.

On July 11, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh tweeted that he had instructed the state’s police to take legal action against her for the remarks. After the video went viral, Joshua faced endless cyber abuse and online harassment. Following this, she took down the video from her social media pages, and apologised on Saturday.

However, other Twitter users, who are bothered by the intolerance shown towards Joshua, have reposted the video, and questioned the reason behind such an extreme reaction to the comment. Tweep @h_tejas posted: “Why are Marathi folk upset about Agrima's video? What is there to get offended about? And it is really troubling that even politicians are getting involved in this bullying of her.”

Tweep @Sanginamby posted: “What is so offensive in this? You have to be completely brainless to outrage over this. Or just hate women. Or both.”

YouTuber issues rape threats

As the video went viral, a man named Shubham Mishra, took it upon himself to call out Joshua for her 'offensive' jokes about the Maratha king.

In a 2-minute-long YouTube clip, Mishra, who has many followers on YouTube, was heard abusing the comedienne and threatening to inflict violence.

The video, full of rape threats, went viral on social media channels in India, leaving people absolutely outraged at the distasteful language used by the vlogger, against Joshua.

Several social media users including other stand-up comedians, and Bollywood actors have come forward, and raised concerns over the video.

The National Commission of Women took matters into its hands after comedian Kunal Kamra tagged them in the video on Twitter.

@NCWIndia tweeted: “@NCWIndia has been tagged on this video by @kunalkamra88 where a man can be heard hurling abuses and giving open threats to a female comedian. #NCW is committed to creating safe online space for women. We'll take action and ensure that this man gets strictest punishment possible.”

Reacting to the man’s threats, and asking the cyber cell to verify the video, Home Minister @AnilDeshmukhNCP tweeted: “Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj taught us to respect women… if someone is using/threatening the wrong language about women, then there is a law for them…. @CPMumbaiPolice take appropriate legal action against the person in the video as per the rules.”

After the backlash, Mishra deleted the first video and released another video, claiming that his intention was never to issue a rape threat, but, to express anger over the incident.

Aside from the verbal sexual abuse that Joshua was subjected to by Mishra, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (a nationalist far-right Indian political party) activists also, allegedly, broke into, the comedy and music cafe in Mumbai's Khar (West) area, where the video was shot last year, and vandalised its property.

The cafe took to Instagram to issue a statement about the vandalism at the café: “We are a family of artists. Not just comics, poets, storytellers, improvisers, singer-songwriters, musicians, technicians, engineers, lighting crew, sound recordists, photographers, videographers, editors, social media managers, decor and event planners, coordinators, programme curators, wait staff, hosts, cooks or housekeeping staff. To put forth a message, we devote our lives to finding creative expression. Not towards acts of barbaric violence or mindless sharing of violence.”

Twitter users are asking authorities to look into the matter and saying that letting such threats go, without immediate legal action will only promote sexual crimes and cyber bullying against women. Many have requested strict punishment against those inciting such behaviour.