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Mumbai Police Ask YouTube, Facebook to Block Video

by AFP
Alex Goodlett—AFP

Alex Goodlett—AFP

Latest row over freedom of expression seeks to censor video poking fun at ex-cricketer Sachin Tendulkar.

Indian police said Monday they had asked YouTube and Facebook to block a video poking fun at cricket great Sachin Tendulkar, sparking the country’s latest row over freedom of expression.

Comedian Tanmay Bhat posted the clip, which also mocked famous Indian movie singer Lata Mangeshkar, on his Facebook page last week, angering rightwing politicians in Mumbai who complained to police. Police in the western Indian city received two complaints—one from a local politician belonging to Narendra Modi’s ruling Bhartiya Janata Party who said the clip was defamatory.

The other was from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, a fringe pro-Marathi party in Mumbai, which is the capital of Maharashtra state, force spokesman Sangramsingh Nishandar said.

“We have sought a legal opinion. In the meantime we have written to YouTube and Facebook to block the above-mentioned video,” said Nishandar.

In the two-minute clip Bhat, a member of online comedy group AIB, mimics a conversation between Tendulkar and Mangeshkar. He said Mangeshkar, who is 86, looked like she’d been kept in water for eight days and suggested she should die.

Bhat posted a comment with the video describing it as “nonsense.”

“Also I obviously love Lata and Sachin, just having some fun,” he wrote.

AIB fell foul of authorities last year when they were at the center of an obscenity investigation over some sexually explicit jokes in a comedy “roast” show featuring several Bollywood stars.

India, the world’s largest democracy, has long been proud of its tradition of artistic, cultural and religious freedoms but a series of bans recently sparked accusations of a growing climate of intolerance under Hindu nationalist P.M. Modi. Last year a British-made documentary about an infamous 2012 gang-rape in Delhi was banned while a government-appointed board of censors blocked the release of the movie Fifty Shades of Grey in cinemas.

Critics say the bans show how thin-skinned their politicians have become in the Internet age. Many social media users accused Bhatt’s video of being vulgar and unfunny on Monday but also defended his right to make it.

“If only political parties got this worked up about rape, communalism & homophobia like they did about @thetanmay’s video! #TanmayBhat,” wrote one Twitter user. “Totally agree. video is crass & not funny. But does he have right to make it? Hell Yes. #TanmayBhat,” wrote another.

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