Three Indian airlines enforced a flight ban on a popular Indian comedian, Kunal Kamra, yesterday. Kamra was banned by IndiGo Airlines, on Tuesday, for heckling a controversial TV channel editor Arnab Goswami on a recent flight from Mumbai to Lucknow. Urging other airlines to follow suit, the government announced that national carrier Air India would also not allow him on board. On cue, Spice Jet also declared a ban on Kamra.
But, is this flight ban justified? Isn’t it government intimidation? This is what many Indian tweeps have been asking on Twitter.
India’s Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri posted on Twitter: "Offensive behaviour designed to provoke and create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable and endangers safety of air travellers. We are left with no option but to advise other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the person concerned.”
So, “Why not Pragya Thakur?” questioned many tweeps, pointing out a recent SpiceJet incident involving Bhopal’s Bharatiya Janata Party MP Pragya Singh. She had stirred up a controversy, delaying a passenger flight by over 45 minutes. A viral video in December showed a passenger pointing out that Thakur's refusal to change her seat, which led to the flight being delayed.
Some also pointed out how unfair the ban was, especially when reporters from the presenter's channel have done the same to others in the past.
Along with a video @babubasu tweeted: “Just take a look at this clip - one of many instances of the same man's channel ambushing someone on a flight. Has even a finger been lifted in such cases? Or when a terror-accused MP blocks an emergency exit and delays a flight for 1.5 hrs? Act uniformly…”
Kamra tweeted about the incident and wrote that he "politely asked him to have a conversation", but the journalist "pretended to be on a phone call".
Goswami, who runs the Republic news network is known for frequently berating his panelists on television, attacking opposition members and government critics, and has called people names like "traitor”.
After repeatedly trying to ask him questions on his journalism, Kamra recorded a video while criticising Goswami using some of his own catchphrases like "the nation wants to know!" He asked if Goswami “is a coward or a nationalist?". Wearing sunglasses and earphones, he ignored Kamra for the entire duration of the video that went viral.
In the video, Kamra made a reference to the mother of Rohith Vemula, a Hyderabad university student who committed suicide in January 2016 after being suspended for raising issues against university authorities. Kamra accused Goswami of victimising Vemula and his family over their status as Dalits. Along with his video post, Kamra wrote: “I did this for my hero…I did it for Rohit.”
#BoycottIndigo became a trending hashtag as people condemned the ban.
Kamra is known for his blunt anti-government commentary in his shows. He had campaigned for Jawaharlal Nehru University’s student leader-turned-politician Kanhaiya Kumar in the 2019 general election.