Papon on Sexual Assault Accusation: ‘Faulty Camera Angles and Accidental Move’
The Assamese folk/pop singer reacts after a video of him forcibly kissing a minor girl contestant on a reality show invited public outrage
On a livestream aired via Angarag Papon Mahanta’s Facebook page on February 20th, the Assamese folk/pop singer is seen celebrating Holi with crew and participants in The Voice India Kids. After several minutes of singing and dancing, Papon orders the cameraperson to end the livesteam just seconds after he’s kisses a girl contestant next to him.
Currently at over 500,000 views, the video garnered a complaint filed by Supreme Court lawyer Runa Bhuyan accusing Papon of sexual assault to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act. Papon is a judge on the show alongside singer-composers such as Shaan and Himmesh Reshammiya.
Bhuyan in her complaint against Papon says she was “shocked” to see the singer’s behavior. The lawyer mentions in her letter, “On seeing the video, I am seriously concerned regarding the safety and security of minor girls participating in reality shows across India.”
In a statement released on social media earlier today, Papon says he is “painfully conscious” of the accusations of improper conduct. He clarified his actions in the broadcast, “To show affection for an 11 year old child who I have been mentoring for a while now is not an alien concept for me.” In the post, Papon adds that “in today’s environment, to touch a girl child, however innocent your thoughts are, is not advisable.” The singer says he feels “victimized” and the accusations also damage the reputation of the girl contestant. He adds, “As an accountable civilian, the safety and respect of women are of grave importance to me and I would never commit an act that is inappropriate or discourteous in any form.”
The contestant’s father also released a statement to play down the incident, calling Papon a mentor and says the allegations of misconduct “was just a moment of affection that is being portrayed otherwise.”
Bhuyan, for her part, told Hindustan Times that the complaint will not be withdrawn despite clarifications offered by Papon, the contestant’s father and channel &TV. “The CD (of the FB session) is in front of the Commission, if they feel that Papon has done anything wrong, then they should hold him guilty,” Bhuyan said.
UPDATE: Papon has stepped down from his role as a judge on The Voice India Kids, stating that he is “in no mental state to fulfill most of my professional obligations.” The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights sent a notice to the singer on Friday. An official from the commission said in a statement, “We felt this is a provocative case. Necessary legal action will be taken.” The singer added in his second statement, “I have full faith in the judicial system and eventually the truth will prevail.”
On Friday, a video-recorded statement in support of Papon and absolving him of any allegations was made by the girl contestant, in the presence of her family and friends.
This is a developing story.