Angarag Mahanta is an Assamese singer who goes by the stage name Papon. He has recently been all over the news for kissing a minor – a child contestant on the singing reality show he judges – over the lips, during a Facebook live stream.

A criminal case was filed against Mahanta by a Supreme Court attorney, Runa Bhuyan. The complaint was filed with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO).

The case registered by Bhuyan didn’t receive the support it ought to and the crime by Papon didn’t receive the backlash it deserved. Papon received incredible support with the hashtag #IStandByPapon trending on Twitter and people adding the text, ‘I stand by Papon’ to their display pictures. The fact that people are condoning a child being sexually assaulted and protecting the abuser is disgusting, but it isn’t surprising in the least bit.

We often disbelieve survivors and protect accusers, but what about a case where there is evidence of the crime for the world to see? In that case, we refuse to acknowledge that the act in question even amounts to a crime. Everyone who has come to the singer’s defence has constantly said that a crime never occurred and him kissing a nine-year-old was only a ‘fatherly’ gesture.

What is truly appalling though, is that the child’s father has said the same. The father said that it was a paternal gesture and done without any malice, thus it isn’t a crime. It’s extremely problematic that a parent who is responsible for the protection of their child would condone sexual assault and protect and stand by their abuser.

Papon received incredible support with the hashtag #istandbypapon trending on Twitter.

He released a statement that said, “Papon sir is a mentor and a father figure to my daughter and has always encouraged her to pursue her dreams. He doesn’t differentiate amongst the children who are here and gives them equal guidance on pursuing their dreams. What you saw in the video is not intentional. It was just a moment of affection that is being portrayed otherwise. I would request and urge the media to not pursue this further”

People who stand by Papon, as well as his lawyer, have used this as a defence and said if the father doesn’t think a crime has occurred and is certain the act was inspired by paternal affection, Papon should be let off the hook.

Although, the point everyone who supports him, including his lawyer, is missing is A) the father of the child doesn’t get to decide if a crime has been committed or not, Papon’s actions were against the law and he should be tried for sexual assault. B) the child’s father being a parent who cannot stand by his own child and is incapable of having the desire to bring her justice, is a weak and ridiculous defence.

The child in question has also come out in Papon’s defence. In a recent video, she said, He kissed me like he would kiss his own child. My mother and my father also kiss me lovingly so there is nothing wrong with it.’

A child that young cannot officially consent, which we are forgetting. The age of consent in India is eighteen, which means anyone below the age of eighteen cannot consent to any sexual act, be it even kissing.

Also Read: Why Is No One Talking About The Child Sexual Abuse In Chughtai’s Lihaaf?

Also, it cannot be established if the child released the statement of her own free will, or if she was coerced into doing it by her parents. Finally, a child cannot understand consent, sexual assault or the sexual nature of things. The child’s statement is no defence and doesn’t change the fact that she was sexually assaulted by Papon.

Papon has also said in a very long Facebook post that he didn’t sexually assault the child and he only kissed her out of affection. Although, what stood out in this post was this line, “I might have done it spontaneously but in today’s environment, to touch a girl child, however innocent your thoughts are, is not advisable”.

The singer not only refuses to accept that what he did amounts to sexual assault but also implies that his actions wouldn’t be considered wrong in ‘any other time.’ Papon also said that we should consider the shame and embarrassment the child’s family would face.

Her family wouldn’t face any shame, the child is the victim, there was no fault of hers. There is no shame in being a survivor of abuse, the media uproar cannot take away her dignity.

Another common defence was that this could be an ‘accident’ or as Papon and many of his supporters stated, the video was probably shot from a bad angle, thus making it look like something it isn’t. Standing by a predator just because you appreciate his work is daft but is something that continues to happen often.

There is no shame in being a survivor of abuse, the media uproar cannot take away her dignity.

Our lack of understanding of consent and sexual harassment is very limited and thus, very problematic. Papon committed a crime and should be tried for it, we shouldn’t be making excuses for him – sloppy, meaningless and preposterous excuses to shield an abuser from the consequences of his abusive actions.

This isn’t the first time and unfortunately won’t even be the last, that we do this. We systematically fail survivors of sexual abuse. It’s sickening and disgusting that in the year 2018 we continue to protect a sexual predator and call his abuse ‘fatherly’ and ‘affectionate’ and it’s appalling that we as a society continue to fail survivors of sexual assault by either shaming them, refusing to believe them and by telling them that a crime hasn’t occurred.

When damning video evidence shows us that Papon kissed the child on her mouth, protecting him, making excuses for him, or trying to change the definition of sexual assault only reminds us that we continue to be the society that condones predatory behaviour and abuse. We continue to condemn survivors only because they happen to be the victims of a crime that patriarchy has led us to believe isn’t the perpetrator’s fault.

We continue to call sexual assault ‘mistakes’, we blame survivors and victims for ‘arousing’ their abusers, and we continue to see sexual assault as a crime that perpetually robs survivors of their dignity, but apparently is no testament to the perpetrator’s character.

Incidents like this will continue to happen, and hashtags like #IStandByPapon will continue to trend until we collectively decide to rethink our take on sexual assault, eliminate our habit of shielding and defending perpetrators, and lose the indifference, apathy, and aggression in our approach towards the survivors of sexual assault.

Also Read: Survey Reveals 1 In 2 Children Suffer From Child Sexual Abuse


Featured Image Credit: India Today

16 COMMENTS

  1. Does it fall under the category of Sexual Abuse??? It may be at its worst can be called as an inappropriate Act but donot try to lower it to an act of Sexual Abuse. Did He try to make any kind of sexual advances to the minor or did he try to touch any primary or secondary sexual body part of the child in any way or did he try to gratify his sexual stimulus by kissing the child in her lips??? I don’t know from where the term Sexual is coming in the whole controversy whereas no such thing that can be called sexual is on the whole part..My God… Sexual Abuse… whereas it has nothing to do with anything that is sexual in nature. it’s very ridiculous how the media as well as most of the public trying to malign it to an episode of sexual abuse..Hypocrites…

    • 1. Kissing someone on the lips is a sexual act.

      2. Kissing a minor is a crime and IS considered a form of sexual assault.

      3. Even if the minor consented, it is still sexual assault because the age of consent in India is eighteen, meaning a child cannot legally consent to any sexual activity.

  2. Absolutely agree with you Akshita. I am stunned at how women are trying to pull down Runa Bhuyan hurling abuses at her and calling her all sorts of names. Also, the kind of jokes floating around on watsapp about seeing a cute kid around and unable to shower kisses on them are sickening. I don’t understand why anyone other than parents need to shower their affection on other’s kids? It is not okay to kiss your neighbours children. When babies as young as 5 to 6 months are getting raped, how do you justify these showering of affection?

    Assamese people have to come above their narrow thinking. Just because he is an assamese and a celebrity does not undermine his heinous act.

    • People are dismissing the scarce backlash this is receiving as a media frenzy created by liberal media houses and what these people like to call ‘crazy’ feminists. The fact that so many people, including women cannot see an act of sexual assault for what it is and continue to make excuses for the perpetrator and try to shame, shun, and silence anyone trying to raise a voice forces us to confront the ridiculous, damaging, and troubling ideas we hold about sexual crimes, as a nation.

  3. Very well said. This was an act of sexual harassment with the proof but people are blind fans of Papon. He must be punished. We think that celebrities can not be wrong. #ShameOnYouPapon

  4. The bollywood is largely silent and divided on the issue. Even celebs like Amitabh Bacchan or Kaliash satyarthi who are champions to the cause of women empowerment and Children protection have chosen not to comment. That is because there is no unanimous vote on whether the incident was merely a gesture of paternal affection or was it ill intentioned, due to the ambigous nature of the video. It is a very subjective opinion and each one is entitled to theirs. In today’s scenario in India bacause of high crime rates against women where every adult male is seen as a potential sexual offender there is a very thin line between mere affection and sexual offense. From Papon there has not been any such history of misconduct towards children or women for that matter.No one has said that Papon has a known flawed character. It is quite likely that Papon may be tried for the misconduct, but so then every celebrity(including the female ones) who have previously displayed affectionate gestures towards children should also be reviewed.

    • Legal Facts:-
      1. Someone can only be sued in a civil court, not a criminal court. I am talking about criminal charges in this piece, I don’t see where the question of civil accountability comes in from.
      2. Only the afflicted person can sue for damages, I cannot sue Papon, or anyone else. Only the victim can take the matter to a civil court after criminal proceedings are finished.

      Question:-
      1. I don’t know who Neha Kakkar is or what she did, but whatever it might be, how does it change what Papon did?

      2. I am not even suing Papon, because I legally can’t. Only the victim can claim damages. So how does the question of me suing anybody arise here?

      Fact:-
      1. What someone else did cannot take away from what he did, so don’t try to shift the conversation to something it isn’t about.

  5. Papon is innocent and I think we should think twice before blaming someone .It is not that what all we always see in news papers or channels is true.In the video the person who was holding the camera , in such a way that it seemed that papon is kissing the girl on her lips ,but he was kissing her to the right side of her cheek .It is not right to think that all men have a bad mentality.Papon has a girl child of 5-6years and the girl child which he kissed he might be seeing her own child in her.#istandbypapon. (NOT AS A FAN)

    • 1. Can you present proof that he is innocent? Maybe we should let the courts conduct trials. The article merely says that he should be charged, it doesn’t say that he should be jailed, that is for the court to decide.

      2. This is has nothing to do with media houses, there is video evidence that we are all free to look at.

      3.The child and her father made excuses for Papon, but they never once denied the fact that he kissed her on the lips.

      4. In the video, someone says, ‘yeh kya ho raha hai’, do you think a kiss on the cheek which is relatively common in India (though t shouldn’t be) would evoke such a reaction?

      5. If it was only a kiss on the cheek, why did Papon yell out to the person recording the video to turn off the camera? If it was that innocent, he shouldn’t have been worried at all.

      6. Did I even once mention in my piece that I think all men commit sexual assault? And since we do not personally know each other I can be certain you have never once heard me say that. So what brings you to the conclusion that I think all men have a ‘bad mentality’?

      7. How does the fact that Papon has a child change anything? Do you think people who have children are incapable of hurting other children? If that is the case, you’re in for a shock. There are people out there who beat, torture, assault, rape, and even kill their own children. Having a child isn’t testimony to anyone’s innocence.

      8. It is illegal to kiss a minor, whether you see them as your own child or not.

      9. If you still stand by Papon, I feel very sorry for you.

  6. Women have their faults / men have only two: / everything they say / everything they do. Popular Feminist Graffiti

    The more famous and powerful I get the more power I have to hurt men. Sharon Stone(Feminist)
    Here in the place of I ,you can replace your name AKSHITA PRASAD..

    Actually you are exceptionally enhancing towards cheap mentality.What you see not exact.I can say that Papon need to be careful being a celebrity,but how the hell a sex-assualt ???

    Runa Bhuyan will be booked for not informing their parents and went to fight for child right ..ask her what she has been doing for last so many years around guwahati?? she was blind now suddenly Helix Nebula given her EYE.

    You might booked too for misinterpreting,but you are right since your view just limit to feminism.

    Finally you have writing sill,please use in positive criticism.
    God bless…

    • 1. Kissing someone on the lips is a sexual act.

      2. Kissing a minor is a crime and IS considered a form of sexual assault.

      3. Even if the minor consented, it is still sexual assault because the age of consent in India is eighteen, meaning a child cannot legally consent to any sexual activity.

      4. Even if we overlook the age of consent for a moment, Papon never asked the child if she consents, which is clearly seen in the video.

      5. Runa Bhuyan can’t and won’t be booked under any section of the IPC because she is well within her legal rights to register a case even without the parent’s permission.

      6. I cannot be booked under any section of the IPC either because my article is not defamation, libel, or slander. The Indian Penal Code states that, ‘It is not defamation to impute anything which is true concerning any person,’
      My article is based off the video evidence that is there for the entire world to see, a video in which Papon kisses this child, and apart from that, he admitted to doing it in his Facebook post. In the Indian Penal Code it is clearly stated that,

      7. It would be sexual assault even if there was a woman in Papon’s place, and if it were a woman, even she would deserve to be charged and tried for sexual assault. The gender of the perpetrator doesn’t matter, a crime is a crime. This has nothing to do with his gender, so don’t try and make it about that in an attempt to take away the focus from the real issue here.

      8. If your view of feminism is so limiting that you cannot see feminism isn’t about hating or shaming men, you shouldn’t even be on a feminist website. I am going to spell it out for you anyway, feminism is about getting women equal political and social rights as men, which they have historically been denied because of patriarchy. Feminism fights patriarchy, not men.

Leave a Reply