Playback singer Abhijeet Bhattacharya is once again at the centre of controversy, following allegations that he molested a 34-year-old woman at the Lokhandwala Durga Puja pandal, one of the city’s most high-profile Puja celebrations, which he co-founded in 1996.
Abhijeet Bhattacharya speaks to the crowd gathered at the Lokhandwala Durgotsav pandal last night, a day after the incident. Pics/Sayed Sameer Abedi
The incident took place around 10 pm on Wednesday, when the complainant, a Versova resident, and her friend were attending a Kailash Kher concert at the pandal. The pandal is located at the grounds near Lokhandwala Circle, where the idols are situated on one end, and the concert area on another.
Abhijeet is a key organiser of the Lokhandwala Durga Puja pandal
She was unable to see the stage clearly while seated, so she stood up to get a better view. That was when Abhijeet allegedly patted her behind at least four to five times, she told the police. She turned around and instantly recognised the singer, and asked him why he had touched her inappropriately.
The woman alleged that Abhijeet also had volunteers take her to the pandal’s office, where he and his sister abused and threatened her
They began to argue furiously in Bengali. Eyewitnesses said Abhijeet asked her why she was standing and blocking the view of the audience, to which the woman shot back asking how that had given him the right to touch her. At this point, Abhijeet asked a few female volunteers to lead the woman out of the concert area and take her to the pandal’s office.
She was also accompanied by her friend. At the office, the argument continued, and this time, Abhijeet’s sister allegedly also joined in. The complainant claimed the siblings hurled abuses and threats at her. Eventually, volunteers shunted her off the pandal premises. The woman headed to Oshiwara police station and finished lodging an FIR by 1.15 am.
Senior Police Inspector Subhash Khandvelkar of Oshiwara police station confirmed that an FIR had been registered against the singer and his sister under Sections 354 A (sexual harassment) 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) & 34 (common intention), but no arrests had been made.
“Yesterday was Dussehra, we did not want to disturb the celebrations. We will first take down statements from witnesses and then decide on the course of action,” added Khandvelkar.
“The victim revealed that she was hurt with Abhijeet’s indecent behaviour, which outraged her modesty. She further claimed that he had malicious intentions and he had not touched her accidentally,” said a police officer, adding that the complainant had a valid pass for the concert.
However, sources said that when the cops went to the pandal to inform Abhijeet about the FIR, the 45-year-old told them that the girl was standing and blocking the audience’s view. He told the police that he had only touched her to ask her to take her seat, but she began to abuse him instead.
“I know the woman. Her uncle is our committee member. She was seated in the VIP box area. When Kailash Kher was performing, she stood up and it created a problem for other VIP members seated there. She was asked to sit down but she did not.
Therefore, we sent her out of the pandal. Every year, there is a huge crowd, so even people with passes sometimes have to be kept out. We have personal security, pandal security and police personnel. After she left the venue, I don’t know what allegations she made about me. Let the police investigate.”
October: Abhijeet’s reaction to the cancellation of a performance by Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghluam Ali: “#GhulamGigCancelled kitni baar bhagaya bt these shameless hv no self respect no work except terrorism bt we feed them along wd prostitutes,” tweeted Abhijeet, also referring to the singer as a “hawala artist” and “dengue artist from terrorist country”
July: After lawyer and politician Prashant Bhushan and a team of advocates moved the Supreme Court with a late-night petition to stay the hanging of 1993 Mumbai blasts-convict Yakub Memon, Abhijeet tweeted, “Prashant bhushan ko fata hua sasta joota marunga (mine is costly) uski dead body par, Camera ready rakhna”
May: He compared the homeless to dogs after the verdict on the Salman Khan hit-and-run case: “Kutta rd pe soyega kutte ki maut marega. Roads garib ke baap ki nahin hai.”
June 2014: Animal rights activists filed a police complaint alleging Abhijeet abused and manhandled them in a dispute over feeding of stray dogs at a Lokhandwala housing society
>> The Lokhandwala Durga Puja was started in 1996 by Abhijeet Bhattacharya and a few other Bengali families in the area
>> It quickly became one of the most popular and star-studded Durga Puja celebrations in the city, drawing as many as 20,000 to 30,000 devotees each day
>> The pandal is designed by famous art director Bijon Dasgupta and the idols are sculpted by traditional sculptors from Kumartuli, Kolkata
>> This year, 40 dhakis (drummers) were brought in from Murshidabad, West Bengal, to enthral the crowds
>> Each evening features a celebrity performance. Those performing this year include Shaan, Alka Yagnik, Kailash Kher, Sonu Nigam, Babul Supriyo and Abhijeet
>> The food stalls, serving a mix of popular Bengali food and sweets, are always a huge draw, as is the puja bhog, served to nearly 10,000 devotees every day