Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Papon controversy: Social media trolling and challenging toxic masculinity

“Wtf! U studies all these years to post this shit?”
“NGO also teaches how to insults someone when they don’t have a proper answer. Miss***** learn something …. And in case you want a few moral science classes go back to school”
“To me, his music still remains good despite the fact that he molested a child”
“People like you spread hatred, when you have nothing to do you write shit which makes no sense.”
“Do you even know him in person to say all this? Who are you?”

These are few of the many demeaning remarks/comments/slurs thrown without hesitation to the girls who shared their opinions on “Papon controversy” on a Facebook post. Talking about the controversy- A video of very popular singer Papon 'kissing' a minor participant of a music reality show went viral on social media in the last week of February this year. It all started when a Supreme Court advocate Runa Bhuyan shot off a letter to the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights terming the singer's act as "inappropriate". Runa filed a complaint against him under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.

A lot happened after the controversy, where girl’s parents and she herself denied Papon’s act as inappropriate to Papon referring his kiss as mere showcase of his affection same as “Guru shisya parampara” to  the channel airing the show throwing him out of the show. The whole public being very much divided on the controversy while his fans were ferociously advocating his innocence by giving all sorts of arguments to others (which include many celebrities like Raveena Tandon, Farah Khan) questioning his actions. There is no denying fact that Papon is an amazing singer and is loved for his music; naturally for a fan, his actions defied the purity of magic he creates with his voice. 

So, a girl who is a fan of Papon’s music wrote in her Facebook post “I will not be able to listen to Papon 's music the way I used to and will never touch my heart. Papon- You have lost a fan today!”
Immediately to her surprise, people started questioning her with statements like-
“Have you seen the video?” “Do you have any evidence?” “How can you judge him based on a video?” When she tried to answer back, more irrational and demeaning comments made way to her wall “What if he had done the same but was never caught. Then you would have believed his soul and self is pure!” “Please think before you reply, you don't need to be offended by everything and anything.” “Have you personally had a chance to talk to that lil girl?

As an activist, who works with adolescents on curbing child sexual abuse, this incident itself is a big setback considering that it happened on a national television and is being viral on social media and nothing major came out of it. Secondly, the whole electronic media being obsessed and over crowded with the sudden death of a Bollywood actress completely ignoring this case reminding once again how media doesn’t want to address gender based violence and deal with it in our country. Thirdly, the blind followers trend that our country is famous for- just because someone is a celebrity, people conveniently either keep mum or give him/her a benefit of doubt without considering the gravity of the crime. Fourthly, we boost about having highest population of young people and on various platforms (be in politics or social sector) said loud and clear that it’s the young people who would bring bigger changes in the country or change the way we see things. Unfortunately our urban youth, the driver of change (so called) is more interested in doing moral policing, trolling and pulling down the people on social media (again by meaning youth I didn’t mean all). Why? Because it’s easier to do mudslinging on Facebook or twitter rather than having a meaningful conversation or debate on the issues which are of social concern or rather personal concern. 

It’s not for the first time, this type trolling has happened- considering how our spaces are constantly shrinking with respect to raising our voices about a particular issue or incident or a crime in public domain considering the changing sociopolitical environment.
It has become a trend to just write something random, slurs, abuses, threats, demeaning accusations, on various social media sites considering many a times people get scared of it, many of them either block them or refrain from responding on it. However these comments are representative of not only their mindsets but also the society where we live in- these needs to be addressed and challenged because they are inflicting fear and violence. On the similar controversy, I saw one of my friends who is native of Assam posting her opinion on a social media site “We cannot ignore the facts. I am also a big fan of Papon but cannot support here. I am feeling really sorry for all blind fans of him who are trying to defame Runa Bhuyan. She did her work, she raised her voice for what she found inappropriate. We all have seen what Papon did in the video and I too found it inappropriate, it may be acceptable for most of his blind fans but not for all.”

And the moment she posted, many men just jumped on and commented insanely questioning her education, credibility, accusing her as one of those who let girls down and defame her, and posting nasty personal comment. Reminding you once again that all these men are young, well-educated and have fare knowledge. I thought to engage with them on the issue so that an understanding of child sexual abuse, POCSO and maybe they could see the other perspective. On the contrary, they just inflicted toxic masculinity.

Girls are spoiling girl’s image.


“I stand by what I say! I won't take it back. I may be wrong or right. But this is what it is”

“May the almighty grant you with some more knowledge of other acts apart from POCSO

“It would be a good question to ask if we need courts anymore?? Moreover, kissing kid contestants in reality show was never been an issue for anyone in this India until the advocate filed the complaint against Papon.  Lots a time we have witnessed lady mentors or judge kissed minor boy contestants, but none bothered it as sexual assault. When a male judge kissed, it falls into POCSO! Law should be equal to all.”

“We the people of Assam and north east have more love n affection among us for our Youngers unlike the low mentality north and west Indian people. So that was just due to his upbringing. I have seen both North n west India and I know that there is a huge mentality gap between both the place in comparison to Assam

I mean who could imagine that discussion on child sexual abuse would turn into debate of regionalism throwing stereotypes as to whole of North India is corrupted with a mindset of hatred!
This discussion turned more interesting and intriguing when another girl joined in and send the message against sexual offence loud and clear – the people got so wary that they started dividing us (me and other girl as two teams) in terms of moral and ethical behavior. This whole Facebook drama actually gave a glimpse of the bubble (the society of course) that we live in- the clear showcase of power dynamics where a person who is man can do whatever he wants to that includes sexual assault and because he is a celebrity he is praised and defended by other man. In case a woman wants to raise her voice even if it is not challenging, she is immediately pulled down by verbal or physical abuse that include demeaning her in terms of character, knowledge, upbringing and etc. 

Interestingly if the woman is aware of her strength and supports her own gender, then they follow the policy of ‘divide and rule’ as you can remember the popular sayings that 2 women can’t be friends or women is worst enemy of other women! Lastly, soothing the violence by saying nice things or by comforting the other person thereby, completing the circle of violence.

However, here we tried shifting the narratives by not falling in the trap and breaking the circle of violence. We stood by each other, challenged their authority by giving them befitted and rational evidences to prove our points, supporting each other when they tried to build a rift and finally making them chew their words when they tried to normalize the conversations around child sexual abuse. 

Because, it’s not okay to keep silence on the gender based violence,

It’s not okay to troll or demean anyone when they try to put their opinions on social media,

It’s not okay to normalize the acts of violence,

It’s not okay to subdue violence against women and child by saying that even men go through it and you don’t say anything,

It’s not okay to always victimize manhood when we are talking about violence against women

It’s not okay to keep saying that “Women are women’s worst enemies”

It’s not okay to follow people blindly

It’s not okay to hide your mindset or maligned views under the word ‘Perspective’

It’s not okay to blame a girl for the violence that has happened to her.     
We need to question, reflect, challenge on the things we have been told and be open to other perspective before throwing judgments here and there to build a society which is gender equitable.  

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