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Indian comedian Vir Das sparks explosive online debate with controversial tale of 'two Indias


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A comedian's powerful monologue addressing some of India's most sensitive issues including rape and farmers' protests has split opinion in the country, with right-wing activists calling for his arrest while supporters rally to his defense.
Comedian Vir Das performed "I come from two Indias" -- a speech chronicling what he perceives as the country's dual personality -- at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., on November 12. A six-minute video of the speech uploaded to YouTube Monday has garnered more than 850,000 views at the time of publishing.
"I come from an India where we worship women during the day, but gang rape them at night," Das said in the monologue.
"I come from an India where we take pride in being vegetarian, and yet run over the farmers who grow our vegetables," he added, referring to the deaths of at least eight people last month when a car linked to a federal minister allegedly ran over several people during a protest against controversial farm laws.

The hashtag #VirDas is trending in India, with more than 60,000 tweets as of Wednesday afternoon.



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When comedian Vir Das performed a monologue entitled "Two Indias" on stage at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center last weekend, he spoke of two drastically different sides of his native India: rich and poor, united but also divided over politics, women's rights, Bollywood films and cricket teams.

His gig ended up eliciting two pretty drastically different responses too.

While the crowd at the Kennedy Center went wild with applause, some Indians back home were less enthused. And politicians from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist party have filed several legal cases against Das.



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The line in Das' monologue that appears to have offended these politicians most was this: "I come from an India where we worship women during the day and gang-rape them at night."

It's not totally unfounded. Three years ago, a controversial survey ranked India as the most dangerous place in the world for women, because of the risk of sexual violence. Just this week, a new U.S. State Department travel advisory said that "rape is one of the fastest-growing crimes in India" and urged Americans to "exercise increased caution" overall.

In his monologue, Das also poked fun at the prime minister and the hypocrisy of all politicians, and suggested Indian democracy may be dying.

"I represent a great thing, that is turning into a memory," he said.

But he also spoke of the diversity and resilience of Indians, and how they all live under the same big sky.

After the backlash, Das tweeted a clarification that one commentator called a "whimpering apology to the mob."

Das warned people not to be "fooled by edited snippets" of his video. He reminded them it was a satire.

"People cheer for India with hope, not hate," he wrote. "Remember our greatness, and spread the love."

You can watch a YouTube video of Das' Kennedy Center performance here. And read more commentary about the controversy here, in Indian media.
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