‘One more night in jail, I am very upset’
Top right: Gurmeet Ram Raheem Singh Insaan; Raghavendra ‘Kiku’ Sharda (above)
Says Kiku Sharda who after being let out on bail, has had to go back behind bars because another case was registered against him for mimicking the Dera Chief and hurting religious sentiments.

Comic actor Raghavendra ‘Kiku’ Sharda was arrested from the sets of the TV show, Comedy Nights With Kapil, on Wednesday, at 2 am. He was booked on December 31 under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code for hurting religious sentiments. Kiku had imitated Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan, the popular but controversial leader of the religious sect, Dera Sacha Sauda, on a New Year’s special, Jashn-E-Ummeed, aired on Zee TV on December 27. The case was registered on the complaint of Uday Singh, a follower of the sect.

Kiku was granted bail at 6 pm on Wednesday, against a deposit of Rs 1 lakh. Just when he was contemplating returning to work on Thursday morning, he got the news that another case had been registered at Fatehabad Police Station by another follower of the sect. “One more night in jail, I am very upset. I am a sensitive person and this has really affected me. I’m just hoping that tomorrow morning I will get bail,” Kiku told Mirror at 10 pm on Wednesday, just before he was marched back to jail. “I am a member of the entertainment industry, I did not mean to offend anyone.”

Until Tuesday, Kiku had been in Moradabad filming his Bollywood debut, The End. He flew down to Delhi and from there to Mumbai to feature in the finale episode of the comedy show at Kapil Sharma’s behest. He had been shooting for over 10 hours when the Haryana Police landed up on the sets, picked up Kiku and took him to Aarey Police Station. After a wait of three hours, the 40-year-old comedian was flown to Haryana and sent to 14-day judicial custody after the police produced him before the court of Chief Judicial Magistrate Nandita Kaushik in Kaithal.

DCP M Ramkumar (Zone 12) told Mirror that the Haryana Police had informed the Mumbai Police about Kiku’s arrest. “They approached us and showed us the requisite papers following which a diary entry was made as per procedure. He was then taken away by the Haryana Police,” he added.

While addressing the media gathered in Haryana, Kiku apologised and said that he had presented the programme on the directions of the TV channel and programme producers. “The look (on the show) wasn’t deliberate; it just happened to match (the guru’s looks). We didn’t plan it as a spoof on him. It’s a coincidence, and it is unfortunate. I am sorry that people felt hurt,” he said, upset no action was taken against others, including the channel.

When contacted the channel’s official spokesperson said, “The act was intended in good humour. It was not meant to hurt the religious sentiments of any person.”

Meanwhile, the producerdirector of Kiku’s debut film, The End, Jaideep Chopra, who has been in contact with him since he left Moradabad on January 11, insists that the actor is a religious man and a fantastic comic. “He told me that he had profusely apologised to Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, the Dera Sacha Sauda sect as well as the members of the media. He was only an actor doing his job,” says Jaideep, adding that Kiku’s mother heard of the news through the media and was panic-stricken because he’d had no contact with her since he entered the sets of Kapil’s show. “She was unaware that he had been taken to Haryana.”

Jaideep stands to lose almost Rs 50 lakh since the entire unit will now have to be flown back to Mumbai and he has no idea when Kiku can resume shooting.

Ram Rahim Singh has featured in several self-made music videos, in which he can be seen riding motorcycles. He regularly performs at rock concerts. He faces allegations of rape and murder and accusations that he ordered hundreds of followers to be castrated. His sect has a massive following in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana.

Archana Puran Singh who has judged comedy shows over the years insists that the arrest is an “extreme, knee-jerk reaction”. She says, “Comic actors are apolitical, all the material they perform is pre-approved. If this is the kind of reaction we get, then freedom of speech is something that we only read about in books but no longer to be practised. Where are we heading?”