'We have become the other version of the Taliban or Islamic State. There is no difference. Our levels are lower, but we are getting there.'
'If you say we are better than Pakistan, then I am sorry to say that we are as bad as Pakistan and Afghanistan.'
Comedian Suresh Menon protests against Kiku Sharda's arrest.
Comedian Suresh Menon is aghast over Kiku Sharda's arrest by the Harayana police.
Sharda was arrested on January 12 after he spoofed 'godman' Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan on an episode of Comedy Nights with Kapil, which was aired on December 27.
Menon spoke to Syed Firdaus Ashraf/Rediff.com about his friend's arrest.
What was your reaction when you heard about Kiku Sharda's arrest?
My first reaction was that the arrest was utter nonsense. Complete nonsense.
Secondly, not Kiku. Anybody but Kiku.
He is a very non-controversial actor.
Kiku is a very disciplined actor. He follows the script to the T. You go and arrest him at midnight!
Is Kiku Sharda a criminal?
What are we going to tell our children? You crack a joke and you will get arrested!
Everyday we hear that criminals are going scot-free. It's shocking.
I did not expect this to happen in our country, especially under the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government.
Do you think Kiku was targeted specifically and the others in the team -- including the writers and channel heads -- were let off?
I don't think there is any controversy here. He did not say anything derogatory about the concerned person (Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insan).
I just tweeted to the concerned person, who is a great insaan, that it would be great if he forgives Kiku because mimicry will not hurt you. His followers have filed this case and everyone knows who these chamchas are.
Do you think stand-up comedians will be worried about their acts in future?
Yes. It will be quite scary.
I am empathising with Kiku so much because his wife is worried and his kids are waiting at home. His father has come back from hospital after bypass surgery.
Why was he arrested? Is he a criminal?
Seriously, I have lost interest in comedy. You don't want your kids to suffer because of these things.
We have become the other version of the Taliban or Islamic State. There is no difference. Our levels are lower, but we are getting there.
If you say we are better than Pakistan, then I am sorry to say that we are as bad as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
You think India is as bad as Pakistan and Afghanistan?
What is the difference?
We have become so intolerant. Because of social media, people think they can say anything. We need to stand up and fight.
We cannot let people who want their way to rule our country.
India is the most democratic country in the world. Our biggest mistake is that we do not know our Constitution.
I am sure Kiku does not know his rights. How can someone come and arrest him and take him to Haryana? None of us know our rights.
Only if I am hurting the country can I be arrested. Not when some FIR is filed against me by some follower of some guy whom not many of us even know of in Mumbai.
You think we need to relook at the sections in the Indian Penal Code which are outdated.
Even when the AIB Roast happened, when somebody made somebody laugh, people got offended. They should get a life.
Who gets offended with jokes? They don't get easily offended when women are raped and people are killed. They do not come out in the open then.
Ten years ago, I had asked Mallika Sherawat that there are allegations against her that she promotes obscenity and she told me that you have the power of the remote in your hand and that you can simply change the channel.
Absolutely correct! Nobody is holding a gun to your head and making you watch.
I want to add that mimicry is an ancient Indian tradition of behrupia. You know there were jesters in royal courts too. Suddenly, they are saying this is not right. That means they are going against Indian culture too.
What message has come out of this?
'Do not imitate me, I am the king.' This is obviously what Ram Rahim feels.
The Harayana chief minister (Manohar Lal Khattar) has to be alert after the Pathankot attack, but he is interested in arresting Kiku Sharma.
People have imitated Prime Minister Narendra Modi also, but has that affected his following? No, it hasn't.
I loved imitating (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee. Did that affect his following? No.
I don't understand why we entertain such people.
Lastly, would you say India is a tolerant country after this incident?
We are a very tolerant country because unlike Aamir Khan's wife Kiran Rao, my wife never says let's leave this country. Aisa kuch nahi hua hai!