Monday, 30th October 2017

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More airlines join in to ban comedian

Vistara stands by Kamra who says he didn't endanger passengers

By PTI and Our Bureau in New Delhi
  • Published 29.01.20, 3:23 AM
  • Updated 29.01.20, 6:42 PM
  • 5 mins read
  •  
Kunal Kamra (twitter.com/kunalkamra88)

Stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra was suspended from flying by IndiGo and Air India on Tuesday, and Spice Jet and Go Air on Wednesday, after he confronted TV anchor Arnab Goswami aboard a Mumbai-Lucknow plane of the private airline.

While IndiGo, Spice Jet and Go Air suspended Kamra from flying with them for a period of six months, Air India banned him until further notice.

Aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri took notice of the incident and “advised” other airlines in India to impose similar restrictions on Kamra, stating “offensive behaviour designed to provoke & create disturbance inside an aircraft is absolutely unacceptable & endangers safety of air travellers”.

Vistara, which had said it would follow due process in these cases on Tuesday, indicated in tweets on Wednesday it is unlikely to ban Kamra.

“In total solidarity with you Kunal, anytime, come and travel in our Airlines. Our gates are open for all who take a stand for INDIA.”

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the standup comedian said that he did not “endanger the safety of any passenger” and the only damage he caused was to the “inflated ego” of Republic TV editor Arnab Goswami.

“Fact of the matter is that at no point was I disruptive and at no point did I not follow orders of the cabin crew or the captain. At no point, did I endanger the safety of any passenger on board, the only damage I caused was to the inflated ego to the ‘journalist’ Arnab Goswami (sic),” Kamra said in a statement made public on Wednesday.

Kamra said that “no formal complaint" had been lodged against him either by the crew of the flight or Goswami. “Whenever there was an intervention by any member of the crew I complied,” he said.

If “expressing” himself and “catching people off guard” was a crime, then both were criminals, Kamra added, without naming Goswami.

On Tuesday, Kamra had issued a detailed statement on the incident on the flight.

“Today I met Arnab Goswami in a flight to Lucknow (6E 5317) and politely asked him to have a conversation. At first he pretended to be on a phone call. I waited for his so-called phone call to get over. Seatbelt signs were off at this time. I gave him a monologue about what I felt about his “journalism”. He refused to answer any questions, he called me ‘mentally unstable’.

“The stewardess asked me to take my seat as the seatbelt signs had just come on. Post take-off, when the seatbelt signs were off again, I approached him again and asked him if I could have his attention. He said he is watching something, and he doesn’t want to talk. So then I did exactly what Republic TV journalists do to people in their private/public spaces, and I don’t regret it. I am not sorry for it.The moment the stewardess asked me to move, I went back to my seat in 20 seconds. I apologised to each crew member personally and to both the pilot, by staying back till the end, for any inconvenience that I might have caused during the flight. I don’t think I did anything wrong/ criminal. Don’t let this be about my bravado. Let us all take a moment and fondly remember a smiling Rohith Vemula (the Hyderabad University student who had committed suicide). I do apologise to every passenger except one.”

On IndiGo’s decision to suspend him for six months, Kamra said on Twitter: “Thank you, IndiGo. A six-month suspension is honestly very kind of you. Modiji might be suspending Air India forever.”

In a video clip posted by Kamra on Twitter, he is seen asking Goswami if he is a “coward or a journalist”.

While Goswami can be seen sitting in the plane and watching something on his laptop with his earphones plugged in, Kamra is heard as telling him: “Viewers want to know if Arnab today is a coward or a nationalist. Arnab, this is for national interest. I am part of the tukde-tukde narrative. You should deflate me. You should take the enemies of the state down. You should make sure that the country is in safe hands of Narendra Modi.”

“You should fight against dynasts like Rahul Gandhi, who I support, on 10 Tughlaq Lane. Arnab, you should have a reply, Arnab. Arnab, are you a coward or are you a journalist? Are you a coward or are you a journalist or a nationalist? Who are you, Arnab? Who are you?” Kamra can be heard as saying in the video clip.

“You know, you do not deserve my politeness. This is not for you. This is for Rohith Vemula's mother whose caste you were discussing on your... show. I know this is not allowed. This is fine. It’s fine if it is not allowed. I’d go to jail for this.

“But this is for Rohith’s mother. And go... find time and read that 10-page suicide letter that Rohith wrote so that you have some emotion or some heart or you just become human. Do that. Do that you in your free time. You nationalist.”

In the evening, IndiGo tweeted: “In light of the recent incident on board 6E 5317 from Mumbai to Lucknow, we wish to inform that we are suspending Mr Kunal Kamra from flying with IndiGo for a period of six months, as his conduct onboard was unacceptable behaviour.

“Hereby, we wish to advise our passengers to refrain from indulging in personal slander whilst onboard, as this can potentially compromise the safety of fellow passengers.”

After IndiGo announced its decision to ban Kamra, the aviation minister tweeted: “We are left with no option but to advise other airlines to impose similar restrictions on the person concerned.”

Air India said: “In view of the incident onboard IndiGo6E, Air India wishes to inform that conduct of Person concerned is unacceptable. With a view to discourage such behaviour onboard…, Mr Kunal Kamra is suspended from flying on any Air India flt until further notice.”

Activist Saket Gokhale questioned the manner in which Kamra was banned.

“Now here’s the law — u first need an internal committee headed by a retired district or sessions judge to examine any such case. This committee must conduct a detailed investigation & decide whether the offense was Level 1, 2, or 3. Did your internal committee really complete an enquiry in 24hrs? Did Goswami give a statement? I bet on NOPE. I hope you have these papers. Also, after reaching a decision, u have to give Kunal Kamra 60 days to appeal to an internal appellate committee which u need to constitute. Have u done that?”

One Twitter user asked: “Mr Puri, I am extremely impressed with your swift action. Just wondering why no action was taken against terror accused, MP from your party Pragya Thakur Singh? She disrupted a flight.”

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted: “The truth is that it was time someone gave him (Goswami) a taste of his own medicine. These are the words he regularly uses to berate his innocent victims, except he does so in a hectoring, bullying manner & at higher volume & pitch than Kunal Kamra does in this video.”

When a Twitter user alleged that Tharoor was endorsing public heckling and forced debates, the MP responded: “On the contrary, I deplore & condemn what was done to me & therefore approve of teaching the incorrigible what it feels like to be treated that way. His (Goswami’s) goons, armed with cameras and mics as their weapons, have done exactly the same thing to me, in almost exactly the same words, on two separate flights until asked to desist by air crew.”