Rather than going by the edited versions of the clip where Papon (Angarag Mahanta) is seen kissing a minor girl, we played the original, amateurishly shot video (featured above) on a vertically held cameraphone, and yet found little ground to offer the playback singer a benefit of the doubt. While this might not have been an elaborate plot to molest the poor girl, the scene culminated in what one often notices some men doing particularly with minor girls. Clearly, from the un-doctored footage available, the girl was caught unawares at the end of an otherwise normal, off-studio recreational activity that the children and teenagers, who are participants in a reality show of music, were indulging in. The incident apparently happened after, or in the course of, a rehearsal for a Holi-special episode. The faces of some of the minors, including that of the victim, are smeared with festive colours (perhaps of gulal). As the characters in the frame suggest they are about to leave for another location, the star of the show, Papon, who has so far not shown signs of any objectionable intention, suddenly makes a gesture of holding a gun at the victim’s temple, uses the other hand to first smear the colour some more on her face and then grabs her lower jaw and forces a kiss on her left cheek. If this is a show of affection, it must be asked why in this largely heterosexual world, boys are, God forbid, spared these uninvited cuddles and pecks on the cheeks (worse, on the lips). Among several factors that contribute to India’s skewed sex ratio, a reason is the haunting fear of parents that a daughter would have to venture out every day in the world that is infested by monsters ready to prey on her by way of a range between fondling and groping to molestation and rape, which makes raising a son a less risky proposition. And this, for no fault of the girl child!
Papon must not go unpunished for his offensive imposition on an unassuming minor. Whether he is embarrassed or has stepped down as the judge of the show cannot prejudice the judge. If the entertainment industry is serious about its deploration of the act, Papon must find it difficult to get his next song, irrespective of the outcome of the case in the court. Mercifully, the celebrities whose protests we have published are all women. If a few of their male colleagues had jumped on the bandwagon of condemnation, photographs of their inappropriate behaviour with little girls on different occasions could expose them. This is not to portray all men as predators on the prowl, but such outrageous happenstance is alarmingly commonplace. No man guilty of the same or similar conduct must be spared. The guilty trying the shields of conventional greeting and ‘modern’ or ‘Western’ culture, accusing the accuser of being ‘regressive’, impresses none. For one, the bourgeoisie in India is blissfully ignorant of the nuances of social interactions in the West, and they perpetuate the misconceptions by passing on myths about the alien culture to the rest of the population. It is assuring to see the matter reaching a court of law. To forgive and forget is to give a fillip to the social transgression. The next time a man drags a girl to his lap, holds her cheeks, caresses her and/or kisses her against her wish — the victim might not get enough time to register her unwillingness — raise a hue and cry, shame the man and report the incident to the police. A high frequency of complaint will suffice as a deterrent.