No Papon, Your Guru-Shishya Act is Not Okay
While commuting in a Mumbai local train, I found two men watching a video of the singer Papon kissing a girl on their mobile phones. I wouldn't have recognised Papon or eavesdropped, if they were not discussing the kiss aloud and giggling away to glory. I googled and found the Facebook Live video. Voyeurs that we all are, the video took no time in making it to our mobile phones. Simultaneously, I received a call from Times Now to be a part of a television panel discussion anchored by Navika Kumar.
Lawyer Defends It as Affection of Love by ‘Guru’ Towards ‘Shishya’
On the panel was Papon's lawyer, Gaurang Kanth, who made absolutely ridiculous statements. He first admitted to the invasion of privacy by stating that it was a peck and not a kiss. He also stated that this was about a ‘guru’ showing affection to his ‘shishya.’ The question is, would we be okay if any of our gurus gives a kiss/gives a peck/smooches (call it by any other name) any child on the lips.
In fact, forget the lips, we should be bothered if any adult touches any child on any part of the child's body, we need to be enraged and angry.
The video clearly shows the 11-year-old child being shocked at being kissed on the lips. The video also has someone asking "Yeh kya ho raha hai?" when Papon kisses the girl. Papon, showing no remorse, instead gets defensive, and asks the person holding the camera to end the video.
Papon issued a statement asking people to think about the harm this could cause to the people involved. He had no shred of shame or guilt. On the contrary, he justified it as normal behaviour, something in the lines of affection.
Here's the thing, Papon. It is not affection when you grab the mouth of an 11-year-old and kiss. It is not affection, even if the child's father confirms that it is affection. It is a thing to be ashamed and bothered about that even after watching the video, people choose to be bought into the theory of this being just affection between a teacher and his student. It is not. It is just not, even if the father or any guardian confirms that they are not offended by the invasion of privacy.
Children need to be respected. Their personal spaces need to be guarded. The concept of comfort should not be misguided.
It is time that we say - “enough is enough”. We have had enough of this nonsense. We should seriously get our act together now. Children are being raped and abused at an alarming rate in our country and we seem to be more in denial of the magnitude of the problem than we are addressing. It all begins by letting these stray instances pass off as “affection”.
For those caught in the justification of abuse in the garb of Indian ethos and culture of being respectful towards children, let me state that according to a study in 2007, more than 57 percent children are abused in our country, which is one in every two children.
This also means that we are not a nation that respects children. We also have the culture that justifies violence on our children, with trites like "spare the road and spoil the child." Many adults, who were physically abused as children themselves, end in their adulthood attributing their success to the pastings they received and, therefore, make that the mantra for their children as well.
Violence thus becomes genetic and generic. Yes, it is hard to swallow this but violence is in our culture. Patriarchy is in our culture. We need to start calling a spade a spade and begin our work at changing mindsets. It is not an easy job, but we have to be at it, if we want a better world.
Privilege of Star Power
Coming back to this incident. We need to understand privilege here. Papon is a celebrated singer. In a nation obsessed with reality shows and singing, being on TV could be a big thing. No one wants to willingly invite muck on their families or lose a big opportunity in a singing show.
However, as a survivor of child sexual abuse, I can tell you that when the arch lights go off and the dust settles, the one thing that lingered on my head was – why didn't my parents stand with me when they should have?
The Idea of Respect Empowers Abusers
No one says that we should not respect our gurus. We all should. However, we need to teach our children to respect themselves first. We, as parents, need to tell them that if there is anyone who disrespects them or touches their bodies in any manner that makes the uncomfortable, we will stand by them. And that no one, absolutely no one, except doctors and caretakers, can touch them.
We need to stand up to this promise in times of crises like these; it doesn't matter if the person is in a respectable position, in terms of age, or the relationship with the victim. We need to realise that it is NOT OKAY for elders to kiss our children. And it is not okay to expect kids to be respectful towards elders even when they offend them.
Children are sentient beings. They feel. They get angry.
The Saga of ‘Khandaan Ki Izzat’
The question of khaandaan ki izzat and "celebrity status" should be the last thing that should ever bother a parent. The child would not go through the ordeal if the parents are strong enough. It is not an easy life for any child to go through courts and make statements. But it is the responsibility of the parent to stand by their children and to value their modesty and protect it from being outraged.
Let's Not Tutor Our Kids Into Believing That This Is Okay. It Is Not
As can be seen in this video, they got the girl to speak while the elders were prompting her and making the child believe that this is how people should react when people kiss them on their lips – call it "guru shishya" love.
It Begins With This "Culture"
Chotti Nirbhaya, Chhutki – we will keep running such campaigns because children will continue to die and our bank balances will not be able to match the weight of our grief. We will continue to remain an unsafe place if we make no amends now. We need to work against this "culture" of allowing perpetrators an easy exit from crimes that they commit with absolutely ridiculous justifications. If perpetrators are allowed to get away, it only empowers the already powerful even more, and this disempowers children. We can progress as a nation only when we empower our most vulnerable demographic – our children.
And as charity begins at home, I would say that there are no disempowered children, there are only bad parents.
(The Quint, in association with BitGiving, has launched a crowdfunding campaign for an 8-month-old who was raped in Delhi on 28 January 2018. The baby girl, who we will refer to as 'Chhutki', was allegedly raped by her 28-year-old cousin when her parents were away. She has been discharged from AIIMS hospital after undergoing three surgeries, but needs more medical treatment in order to heal completely. Her parents hail from a low-income group and have stopped going to work so that they can take care of the baby. You can help cover Chhutki's medical expenses and secure her future. Every little bit counts. Click here to donate.)
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