Mumbai: Singer Papon has landed in trouble with a complaint of sexual assault being filed against him for kissing a minor contestant of a reality TV show, but he said was being "victimised" for no fault of his as he would "never commit an indecent act".
A video has gone viral in which Papon is seen celebrating Holi with the contestants of "Voice India Kids" and planting a kiss on the girl's face. Papon is one of the judges on the show along with fellow singers Shaan and Himmesh Reshammiya. Supreme Court lawyer Runa Bhuyan filed the complaint with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights against Papon under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) Act.
The singer said he is "an extremely affectionate and expressive" person and it did not occur to him that showing affection to an 11-year-old child, who he had been mentoring a while now, would be taken out of context. Papon said if had bad intentions, he would not have shared video on his Facebook page.
"My humble request to everyone, when you do come across this matter is to just pause and think about how much harm this does to the people involved. I have a loving wife of over 14 years and two young children. There is a little girl involved, whose identity is not masked in any way. Both of our families are being destroyed forever, just by people jumping to conclusions. "However, this is not to say that I haven't made a mistake. I might have done it spontaneously but in today's environment, to touch a girl child, however innocent your thoughts are, is not advisable. I am sorry for that. Please do accuse me of being naive and stupid even but please do not call me all those disgusting names," he said in a statement.
The child's father has also supported the singer in the case, saying Papon is a "father figure" to his daughter. "It was just a moment of affection that is being portrayed otherwise. I would request and urge the media to not pursue this further. He doesn't differentiate among the children who are here and gives them equal guidance on pursuing their dreams," he said. “What you saw in the video is not intentional," the contestant's father said in a statement.
Citing the father's statement, Papon said the girl and her family have gone on record to say that what is being depicted in the media is not what actually transpired. "... It is in fact just a case of faulty camera angles and an accidental move and not a sexual assault as being reported. The said incident transpired in the presence of personnel from the reality show and there is nothing objectionable about it," Papon said.
He appealed to the media and his fans to "consider both sides of the story before maligning my public repertoire and damaging the reputation of this girl. My family stands by me in this tough time where I feel I am victimised for no fault of mine". The channel &TV issued a statement saying it will extend full support to all affected parties.
"We as a channel have always been focused on the safety, security and well-being of the contestants participating in our shows. We have always adhered to the NCPCR guidelines and our production house, Essel Vision Productions Limited has taken all precautionary measures required under NCPCR and other laws. We believe in nurturing talent with utmost sensitivity and care while we provide them the platform to showcase their aptitude. "As a responsible channel, we are extending complete support to all parties who are impacted by this incident and will stand by them to help them through this situation," the statement read.