In India, comedians can face arrest for making the wrong kind of jokes
Updated 7:14 PM ET, Sat February 12, 2022
(CNN)This time last year Nalin Yadav was detained in an Indian prison, not knowing when he would be let out.
"I didn't understand how or why this happened to me," said the 26-year-old stand-up comedian, who spent almost two months behind bars. "I couldn't sleep or eat. I had anxiety attacks. My mind wouldn't stop racing."
His alleged crime? Organizing and opening a show for a comic he says he had met just five minutes earlier -- a Muslim comedian accused of telling jokes that insulted the Hindu faith.
He and four others have pleaded not guilty over allegedly hurting and outraging religious sentiment during a comedy show last January. They are still awaiting trial for the charges and face three years in prison if convicted.
While comedy can be polarizing all over the world, in India telling jokes about Hinduism or being associated with someone who insults the majority faith can be enough to prompt legal action.
Experts say India's colonial-era laws are being used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government to quash criticism and encourage self-censorship.
At the same time, authorities have been accused of turning a blind eye to vitriolic comme