On Wednesday, news broke that comedian and TV actor Kiku Sharda had been arrested by police in Kaithal, Haryana, for mimicking Dera Sacha Sauda chief Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh. Sharda, who is known for playing Palak on the hugely popular Comedy Nights With Kapil, has been placed under two-week-long judicial custody for mimicking Singh on an episode of the show that aired in late December.
This happened two weeks after Sharda apologised on Twitter for dressing up as Singh, popularly known as 'Guruji' by his followers, on the show.
Interesting day ..... My profession allows me to be different people . Love it. pic.twitter.com/11Gur4Wihz— kiku sharda (@kikusharda) December 12, 2015
The picture on the left shows Sharda in the guise of Saint Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh 'Insan'
HuffPost India reached out to Aditya 'Insan', a spokesperson for the Dera, which is headquartered in Sirsa, Haryana. In a phone conversation, he clarified that the case had been filed by followers of the organisation in Kaithal, a small town about 154 km away. "If some followers [of the Dera] have taken offence to what was shown in that programme, they are completely within their legal rights to do so," he said, in a phone conversation. "If police has taken action against it, it means they feel that the complaint warrants it."
Slamming Sharda's act on the show, he said, "It was unquestionably offensive and seems to be part of a pattern of meaningless defamation of our Guruji that has been going on for a long time." When asked how an act of mimicry amounts to defamation and why a comedy show would have an agenda against the Dera leader, he said, "I won't comment on the actual content. That is for the investigation to find out."
Sharda has been booked under Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code, which states the following:
[295A. Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.—Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 273 [citizens of India], 274 [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[three years], or with fine, or with both.]
The Dera Sacha Sauda describes itself as a "selfless socio-spiritual organization which focuses on the overall development and well being of humanity". Speaking about why Sharda's act has been classified as something that hurts "religious sentiments", Singh said, "We have always maintained that we are a spiritual organisation as well as a confluence of all religions."
HuffPost India also spoke to Assistant Sub-Inspector Balwan Singh of Kaithal Police over phone, who said, "The investigation of the matter will take some time. Until it is done, we cannot comment on it."