The Tangled “Tonalities” of Mr. Tejpal

By now the details are well known: a young journalist describes a harrowing encounter with Tarun Tejpal, owner and editor of Tehelka, in an elevator during Tehelka’s Think fest in Goa. The description of the incident alleges gross sexual misconduct and bodily violation of an aggravated nature.  Her description does not make for easy reading: it clearly demonstrates the incredibly vulnerable position in which young women are placed when confronted with the sexual misdemeanors of powerful men in positions of managerial authority. Indeed Mr. Tejpal says as much, that to cooperate with him is the best way for her to keep her job. She writes to Ms. Shoma Chaudhury the managing editor describing the incident and asks that she be tendered an official apology, and that Tehelka’s senior management constitute an enquiry and anti-sexual harassment committee as per the Vishaka guidelines. Instead what she is offered is a pathos-laden tale of fall and redemption: directed by and starring Mr. Tejpal, producer Ms. Shoma Chaudhury. There has been near continuous discussion across the web and the news and it can get difficult to keep track of all the various versions being produced on an hourly basis by Tehelka’s bullshit factories. So at this stage it might be useful to simply collate and compare various accounts.

So to begin with, it need not have been this way, at least as far Ms. Chaudhury’s role in this whole sordid affair goes. Mr. Tejpal relinquished any and all moral locus standi the moment he chose to violate the bodily integrity of his young colleague. However Ms. Chaudhury could have chosen to do right by the complainant rather than attempt to defend the patently indefensible. All Ms. Chaudhury had to do was to state in 3 plain lines: “We condemn what occurred. We want the law to take its course. We will support the complainant in whatever course of action she chooses to undertake.” We are told she was advised as much by senior feminist lawyers. That Ms. Chaudhury finds herself unable to say even this little, is incredibly saddening. Instead now Ms. Chaudhury too has trotted out a story of different versions and has begun questioning the journalist’s account in the interests of the ‘institution’. So abrupt has been Ms. Chaudhury’s about-face in the last 24 hours, that a lesser woman would have sustained whiplash. Clearly there are advantages to be had from the absence of a spine. So let us look at the chronology of events, since Ms. Chaudhury seems to place such great importance on when events occurred and what (non) actions she took in response.

Journalists, we are told, are exceedingly keen on ‘facts’. So let us stick to the facts:

There are currently five emails in public circulation. The first is a letter of complaint written by the journalist describing what occurred in the elevator of the Grand Hyatt in Goa on the 7th and 8th of November 2013, dated 18th November 2013. Kafila will not link to this letter out of respect for the privacy of the complainant. The second is Mr. Tejpal’s ‘unconditional apology’ to the journalist, dated 19th November 2013. The third and fourth are, respectively, Mr. Tejpal’s letter of ‘atonement’ to Ms. Chaudhury, and her letter informing the Tehelka office of Mr. Tejpal’s recusal from editorship for 6 months, both dated 20th November 2013. The fifth is an email/sms purportedly circulated by Mr. Tejpal presenting his version of events. A version of that email/sms is available on The Hoot and finds mention in this morning’s Indian Express. This sms/email is dated the 22nd of November 2013. We also have two statements by Mr. Tejpal: an official statement released yesterday, and an interview (presumably over email) with the Indian Express dated 23 November 2013. The Managing Editor of Tehelka, and, as her immediate superior, the first person the journalist turned to, Ms. Shoma Chaudhury has also made several appearances on various television channels.

Ms. Chaudhury claims that the first she heard of the incident was when she received a complaint from the journalist on 18th November in an email describing what occurred on 7th and 8th November and asking that the management respond by immediately setting up an anti-sexual harassment cell and enquiry committee as per the Vishaka guidelines, and which Tehelka as as institution was legally enjoined to do. Ms. Chaudhury has claimed that when she received this mail she was shocked and distraught by the nature of the allegations. At this point, she claims, she did not question the journalists account, did not cross-check it with the account of the colleagues mentioned in the complaint, suppressed Tejpal’s version of what occurred and an official apology from Mr. Tejpal was tendered the next day i.e. the 19th of November to the journalist concerned. Nowhere in this “apology” was the word sexual harassment used, rather Mr. Tejpal represented what occurred as an attempt to form a “sexual liaison” suggesting a proposition made and rejected.

On the 20th of November Ms. Chaudhury responded to a query from the Indian Express with the astonishing statement that the journalist was satisfied, that this was an ‘internal’ matter and that no further questions would be entertained and that Tehelka was not going to investigate the incident nor go to the police. On what basis did Ms. Chaudhury decide that the journalist was “satisfied” when in fact none of her demands had been met? Remember till now Mr. Tejpal is still functional in an editorial capacity at Tehelka. The only response thus far to a complaint that alleges sexual violation and misconduct of a grievous nature and has demanded the immediate institution of a sexual harassment committee as per the Vishaka judgement, is a pompous advertisement to Mr. Tejpal’s own greatness masquerading as an “apology”. We will turn to the obfuscatory flatulence of this “apology” in a minute. Moving along, the journalist responds contesting Mr. Tejpal’s characterization of what occurred as a “sexual liaison” (which suggests consent) and clearly naming it “sexual assault”. She again demands that Ms. Chaudhury set up a committee as per Vishaka. This demand (compliance with which should have been the first and immediate step taken by Tehelka’s management as per the law) has now been made for the third time. With the matter having gone public, it is at this point that two emails are circulated to the Tehelka office. The next day, i.e. the 20th of November Ms. Chaudhury circulates a letter describing what had occurred as an “untoward incident” and appending Mr. Tejpal’s letter of recusal. She asks the office to stand by the institution. Again no mention is made of sexual assault, nor is a committee set up. By now every news channel had gotten hold of this story, Mr. Tejpal is being flayed alive on Twitter and it is at this point on the 22nd, four whole days and three requests after she heard of the incident that Ms. Chaudhury finally announces that an internal committee will be constituted as per Vishaka. While Ms. Chaudhury has subsequently attempted to represent her initial actions as if they were oriented solely toward addressing the incredible hurt and trauma sustained by the complainant, it is crystal clear from the sequence of events that she would have much preferred the matter to die a quiet death within the “cocoon of the institution” (as she so charmingly describes Tehelka’s eyewash of an internal “procedure”). Indeed she said as much in an interview with Nidhi Razdan on NDTV on the 22nd of November. Managing to hold on to several contradictory and impossible descriptions at the same time, seems to be a special talent of Tehelka’s senior management. Consider below this fragment of a conversation between Nidhi Razdan and Shoma Chaudhary:

Ms. Chaudhury begins by trying to justify why she did not immediately go to the police in contradiction of the new Sexual Harrassment law which clearly require an employer to report incidents which fall under the rape law to the authorities, while simultaneously seeming to support the complainant. In her short explanation she insidiously slips in the word “consent” several times: ” Even if it were consensual, ” she says , ” he would have still transgressed as a leader of the organization’ and thus she ‘over-ruled his version which differed significantly from hers’. However now the incident is in the public domain, she adds, I would have to add the word ‘allegedly’ as a prefix to what transpired. She goes on to say that she did not contest the journalists version while it was restricted to a discussion within the institution because it was still not a question of “criminality or legality”. “Now however that he is accused of rape, he has the right to defend himself”. She also mentions that the defendant never used the word “rape”. She only says “sexual harassment”. The word rape is one that has emerged from “outside Tehelka”.

Nidhi Razdan then asks Chaudhury “If the girl’s version were proved, would you consider it rape”? To which Chaudhry replies, “Yes I would. If it were proved legally and criminally I would.”.

Exactly what does this mean? It means quite simply that in the space of three short statements Ms. Chaudhry not only contradicts, but also criminally implicates herself. Firstly, the word sexual assault was not used even once in either Mr. Tejpal’s apology to the complainant, or Ms. Chaudhury’s letter to the office. Second, how the complainant chose to name what occurred is completely irrelevant. Over and above a description of what happens to one, ‘rape’ is a legal definition. The complainant described what happened, it is for the law, not the complainant or Ms. Chaudhury, to decide what these actions comprise. Third, Ms. Chaudhury herself admits that she too viewed the charges as indicating rape, or at the least attempt to rape when she first received them. What then is Shoma Chaudhury saying?

Ms. Chaudhury in essence is saying this: I received a complaint from a woman journalist within the organization which made allegations of a serious nature. I recognized that if these charges were true it would constitute rape as per the law. Instead of going to the police as I was legally bound, I instead attempted to contain the fall-out within the organization. I did so because till the news went public rape is not rape. It is rape only once other people get to know about it.

To turn now to Mr. Tejpal. His official apology has come in for enough ridicule and it need not detain us for long. However even this arrived only once it was clear to him that the journalist was not going to remain silent about what had been done to her. Far from being lacerated by guilt, his initial response was to turn viciously on the journalist and intimidate her when she told his daughter about the incident. The great thing about messages, as he will doubtless soon discover, is that there is no ambiguity about them. Either they were sent from his phone or they were not. And what were his messages?  Here is a small sampling:

“I hope you told XXX that it was just drunken banter, and nothing else”

“I can’t believe u went and mentioned even the smallest thing to her. What an absence of any understanding of a parent child relationship.”

It is quite clear that at this point Mr. Tejpal’s concern was entirely directed at saving face before his daughter and not for the emotional well-being of the young woman he had violated. He would be singing an entirely different tune in his apology to the journalist and his letter of recusal to Ms. Chaudhury. While a thick skin presumably comes with the nature of the job, Mr. Tejpal must be an unusually gifted specimen: it took a whole ten days for Mr. Tejpal to be ‘lacerated by the guilt’ that apparently consumed him. If he was so why didn’t he apologize to her immediately? Anyway by the time we arrive at Mr. Tejpal’s apology he is now deeply contrite, lacerated by guilt, profoundly sorry etc etc.

I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.

Couched in a hedge of  “lapses of judgement” and “misjudging of the situation” what is of relevance is a) that Mr. Tejpal clearly states that he attempted to establish a “sexual liaison” with the journalist despite her “clear reluctance” b) that it occurred on two separate occasions, on the 7th and the 8th, c) that he recognized the seriousness of the offence in so far as he was tempted to describe it as a ‘moment of insanity’ and that he took full and complete responsibility for this ‘unconscionable lapse’.

In Kurusawa’s masterpiece, Rashomon, at least the versions were offered by four different people. Here in an astonishing quadruple role, Mr. Tejpal single-handedly (and four-facedly) assays the parts of an entire courtroom: Victim, Defendant, Prosecutor and Judge. Truly a character artist of rare talent. Fallen Hero, Suffering Patriarch, Self-flagellating Jogi. Having decided what had occurred, what he’d done, where his culpability lay, he magnanimously pronounced on himself a punishment befitting his crimes and misdemeanors: a paid sabbatical of 6 months. When it became increasingly clear that no one was willing to buy this bullshit, and only in the strange universe of Mr. Tejpal and Ms. Chaudhury could the punishment for gross sexual misconduct be a self-imposed sanyas, Mr. Tejpal retracted all his previous statements.

And yesterday the character we have all been waiting for finally made an appearance, the one hiding in the wings all along: the silent victim of a malicious “politically motivated” campaign to slander his good name and great work (peans to which comprise the bulk of his “unconditional apology”). In a statement sent to the Indian Express, Mr. Tejpal, in an astonishing volte face, now describes what occurred as a fleeting totally consensual encounter. He has also circulated emails saying as much to people in the media fraternity. He would now have us believe that his initial breast-beating was obtained under duress to assuage Shoma and protect the ‘dignity’ of the complainant. So we are lead to two logical conclusions: a) If he had nothing to apologize for, what then prompted his initial maudlin out-pouring of remorse and contrition? b) Since he now disavows them, and claims they were made only on Ms. Chaudhury’s insistence, Mr. Tejpal is a complete liar and his apologies purportedly made in good faith mean nothing. In which case why is Ms. Chaudhury continuing to cite them as an example of due process?

“It is a totally mendacious account of what happened, in its details, in its tonalities, in its very suggestion of non-consensus,”

Surely a description of an incident cannot both be ‘mendacious in its suggestion of non-consensus’, and also ‘clear reluctance’ at the same time? Surely it cannot be “incredibly fleeting” and also stretched across “two occasions”? If Mr. Tejpal now insists her version is a “complete lie”, why then did he hold himself “first and last accountable for an unconscionable lapse” in his official apology? Mr. Tejpal seems to subscribe to the Humpty-Dumpty school of semantics: a word means exactly what he wants it to mean, neither more nor less. That which one day by his own admission is ‘clear reluctance’, is ‘totally consensual’ the next.

Mr. Tejpal’s latest missive to his friends and well-wishers is reproduced below. Let us parse it carefully in light of the ‘facts’ of which Mr. Tejpal is so fond. Since we have already seen that for Mr. Tejpal words mean exactly the opposite of what they mean (no means yes, non-consent means consent and so on and so forth) its full meaning  can only be appreciated in obverse:

——Original Message——


Subject: Taruns msg

Sent: Nov 22, 2013 12:48 PM

“I want you to know the facts. Out of an attempt to preserve her dignity (my own posterior), and on Shoma’s adamantine feminist principled insistence (craven attempt at a cover-up) that I keep correct form by apologizing (admit ting to nothing), I did so (produced a pathetic pompous slew of verbiage about my own suffering as opposed to what I had done to her). The truth (complete lie as my own admission of guilt in my first email indicates) is it was an incredibly fleeting (sustained over two days on two separate occasions as I admit in my apology), totally consensual (completely non-consensual as I myself admitted) encounter (assault) in a lift (of a two-story building!). Now that a committee has been announced the truth will come out (yes it most definitely will Mr. Tejpal). My life and work have been trashed (built) on a total lie. Its been such a gratuitous nightmare (for her).”

Let us take a moment here to fully appreciate the particular species of invertebrate with which we are dealing: Having abused his power in the worst possible way, he now turns around and claims to be acting to preserve the dignity of the young journalist. Read against his own previous statements, Mr. Tejpal’s new account of what occurred is entirely unconvincing to him let alone anyone else. At this point one may enquire who is giving Mr Tejpal legal advice and whether he might not be better served by a confessor and make good his professed desire to atone for his sins.

It is now clear why Tejpal and Chaudhury refused to use the term sexual assault in either his email to the complainant or her email explaining his recusal to the office at large: they were clearly aware that acknowledgment of what had actually transpired in the elevator constituted a serious criminal offense under the law. And Ms. Chaudhury acknowledged as much in her interview with Nidhi Razdan. Mr. Tejpal has placed at what might appear at first sight a farcical faith in the contents of the CCTV cameras. In his interview with NDTV the GOA CM, Mr Panniker has stated that the footage has been acquired by the police. Mr. Tejpal is very well aware that there is no camera inside the elevator itself. And the footage from outside the elevator corroborates the journalists’ contention that she was dragged into it on the second day.

What ‘political motives’ could a young journalist have in bringing down the editor of a magazine and workplace she was deeply committed to, a man who was a friend of her father’s, the father of one of her closest friends? What possible motive could she have for turning her world upside down, jeopardizing her career, subjecting her life and body to public speculation? What could she possibly derive from falsely “framing” a man who in her complaint she herself says was a father figure to her? The short answer is no motive at all except to not stay silent and accede to the violation of her body by a man drunk on his own power. No one believes you Mr. Tejpal. Not your family, not your friends and not the professional fraternity to which you belong.

UPDATE Sunday, November 24: There has been some discussion on Kafila and in the press at large about whether Shoma Chaudhury must be held accountable for not reporting the incident to the police. We wish to clarify our position on this. We absolutely and completely support the right and agency of the complainant to her privacy and to determine the course of action she wishes to pursue in consonance with her vision of what would constitute a just outcome in this instance. Thus it is for her determine whether she wishes to initiate and/or co-operate with criminal proceedings or not. The discussion of Ms. Chaudhury’s legal duty in this post is directed at clarifying the seriousness of the charges that came to her, and point out the discrepancy between the gravity of the offense and her response to them. While Ms. Chaudhury has continually insisted on the complainant’s rights as justification for why she did not report the incident to the police, the truth is that Ms. Chaudhury did not take any of the actions that the complainant did demand. If at the moment Ms. Chaudhury received her complaint she had done what was legally required of her, namely immediately institute a committee as per the Vishaka guidelines, issue an apology in which the nature of the charges were made explicitly clear, and clearly and categorically offer the complainant hers and the support of the office in deciding what course of action she wished to pursue, there would not today be this discussion about Ms. Chaudhury’s complicity. If Ms. Chaudhury had at that point done what was legally and ethically required of her, namely ensure that the complainant felt supported in her bringing to light a serious allegation of sexual misconduct by immediately instituting an enquiry, perhaps the complainant would have felt that justice had been done. Doubtless the law would have still taken its own course, and the police might have still taken suo moto cognizance and it would be up to the complainant to determine how she wished to relate to these processes. The difference would have been that Ms. Chaudhury’s role in the whole affair would not have come under the scrutiny it is receiving now. Not going to the police is not the singular (and ambiguous) lapse here. It acquires its meaning and importance only in the context of all the other procedural and ethical lapses and attempts at covering-up an incident of grave sexual misconduct.

[Mr. Tejpal’s official apology, his letter of recusal and Ms. Chaudhury’s letter to the office and the complainant’s response to the apology may be found here.]

40 thoughts on “The Tangled “Tonalities” of Mr. Tejpal”

  1. Quoting something from elsewere.
    “I understand the angst and pique that an incident such as this can cause. Before passing a judgement about Shoma Chaudary’s response, I urge you to take a look at the facts again. It is important to check not just the facts but also the context.
    There are two mails doing rounds on the internet, from which I presume, you have quoted too. One which Shoma writes to her employees. I see it like an email that one gets from the HR. She has to ensure minimum damage and maximum boosting of morale. She obviously cannot say that Tarun is probably a rapist, definitely a bad person and therefore I demanded that he step down.
    Secondly, Tejpal’s email to Shoma in which he is writing to his subordinate telling her he is leaving an institution he built in her very capable hands, for breaking the highest standard of morals that he is required to adhere to. Now you and most other people have written as if this was Tarun’s apology to the journalist concerned. It isn’t. Lets hold it in the context in which it is.
    I am not defending Tejpal’s actions in any way. If he did what he did, he deserves to be punished not allowed to be lacerated in penance.
    We just need to put things in the right context.”

    1. Though you say you don’t defend Tejpal, you are doing exactly that!
      Reg. your comments, If shoma really felt that The Scumbag has committed a sexual assault(I don’t know why anyone won’t, after reading the complainant’s email) why not say it to her employees or to the world? I thought thats what ‘Tehelka the institution’ pretended to stand for! Or is one rule for others and totally different set of ‘unrule’ for the mighty?
      Tejpal’s email to his sidekick Shoma may not be apologetic, but he has clearly admitted sexual assault ( though he calls it by a different name) and apologysed to the journo.
      Lot of leftists are sad that their flagship journal is sinking and are not able to accept it.

    2. What “context” are you talking about? Shoma’s email was written in HR doublespeak, no doubt. What’s more disgusting is her actions. She was willing to let Tejpal off the hook with a 6 month vacation even though from the victms email she (and the rest of the world!) consider the assault as amounting to attempted rape. She was not willing to file a police case, and was not even ready to establish a comittee to probe into the affairs until hounded by the media. Her agenda was clearly to hush up the incident in HR doublespeak.

      Now considering that Shoma has been pontificating about womens rights for the last decade, arguing for the rights of “victims” in such cases, and pretty much built her career on this; it is doubly disgusting to find her acting completely opposite to whatever she has written and claimed to stand for. Of all people, she should have been the first one to take the victms side and counsel her through the difficult period. As members of the public who have listened to her, awarded and applauded her, we have every right to feel outraged. She should be judged harshly, and hopefully we will never again be subjected to her drivel on TV or in print.

      1. And mind you this shame me chaudhry can not feign ignorance of law; she had been tomtoming about how the laws are weak and how it should be amended etc. etc

    3. yes, you are not defending Tejpal and it will be nice if you stop defending Shoma who has been the most irresponsible and worried about the financial implications of the institution and maintains her own power equation with in the fraternity rather than thinking about the victim.

  2. ‘Liberal’ Asaram’s ‘Tehelka’ is an acid test for the ‘progressives’: truth or ideology/affiliation? Many are failing miserably.

  3. Shoma must resign as it is proved by her actions that she at least tried to hush up a sexual misconduct complaint. Will she

  4. You nailed it here:

    “It is now clear why Tejpal and Chaudhury refused to use the term sexual assault in either his email to the complainant or her email explaining his recusal to the office at large: they were clearly aware that acknowledgment of what had actually transpired in the elevator constituted a serious criminal offense under the law.”

    They (TT & SC) initially thought that TT would get away with a slap on the wrist. But now that the case is classified as rape, they’re trying everything in their power to backtrack. And that’s certainly not building their case.

    1. Anon, Please check your facts before you pronounce judgement or opinion. Shoma as the person in charge at Tehelka to whom the complaint was made, is bound by law to report any sexual harassment that is brought to her notice within her organisation, to the police. The victim can choose to cooperate or not to cooperate with the police.

  5. Very well said. In the four days till Mr. Tejpal’s sms to his well-wishers, there has obviously been some consulting of lawyers. Thankfully, in spite of the absence of CCTV cameras in the elevator, the combined efforts of Tejpal-Chaudhary to ‘manage’ the situation by stalling, fudging and airing their own lexicon of what occurred (adamantine, unconscionable, lacerating, atonement, GOOD GRIEF!), there are decided factors that they will find impossible to erase – the creepy text sent at 1.15 a.m for starters. The journalist has shown exemplary courage and wisdom in how she documented the chain of events. She must be unconditionally supported, no matter what she chooses to do from this point. But for Mr. Tejpal, the goose is firmly cooked.

  6. How on earth can Shoma Chaudhury have gone to the police before the victim agreed to? Can there be a case without the victim’s involvement?

    Shoma Chaudhury has clearly irritated many media people across the spectrum over the years – this doesn’t make her guilty of negligence in THIS matter.

    This is Tehelka’s agnipariksha – let’s see how they do before drawing conclusions.

    1. Did she even ask the victim if she wants to file an FIR? Did she offer to stand with the victim on any course the victim wanted to take? I don’t see any such comforting thoughts from ‘Shame me’ chaudhury! From the ‘tonality’ of email exchanges and further utterences of Shame me it looks like She and Tejpal were very happy that the victim was gullible and it can be hushed up with a halfhearted pretense of an apology. From what we know now from other people who worked with that dirtbag, that he was a monster and tried the same with other people before.I am surprised the sidekick did not know this ‘quality’ of her master after licking his boot for ten years! Still worse People want to believe her still!!

      1. Why should she ask the employee? You people are treating that employee like a baby girl–and that is really shameful. STOP infantalizing women, you stupid progressives. There is nothing but self-righteous arrogance I see in Kafila–and I hope this same fate falls upon this organization as it has on Tehelka.

        1. They should ask the employee because it is the employee’s decision. iow, treat her like an adult who can make the decision rather than like a child and make the decision on her behalf.

  7. The event sums up the murky world of Tehelka’s brand of journalism. It is bigger than TT or Shoma Chaudhury. It is not only them but the entire fraternity of Tehelka is morally responsible for concocting truth. This was bound to happen some day anyway. Cover up by Shoma and now TT’s legal team wont help. What is laughable is Shoma’s spirited defence: “Are you the aggrieved party?” Tehelka use media as weapon of extortion and manufacturing truth to establish themselves. They hired decoy detectives and sex workers to entrap corruptible people to create ‘stories’. That has been their modus operandi. Now that they themselves have fallen on the dungeon they have dug for their victims, they are crying hoarse as “media propaganda”. What a joke! No wonder everyone is relishing the fall of the sanctimonious.

    PS: I wish you refrained from revealing TT’s daughter’s name. She is a victim too.

  8. The spate of condemnation all around of Tejpal’s misconduct with his employee who considered him as a fatherly figure deserves to be taken to its logical end.But can that be done without the consent and cooperation of the journo victim.From the train of the developements in the matter till now. it appears that something is happening beyond the public gaze.The question seems to be veering round as to what stand the lady in question takes.From her recent reactions it is clear that she is a very mature ,stable ,bold and mature one and fully understands the implications of the issue in its totality.She should be left alone and be allowed to take her own time to decide the next course of action.She herself has said that she was under tremendous pressure.

    1. The victim may choose to not press charges, that is immaterial! It is a crime against the society and state should press charges and prosecute this dirtbag.If the victim choose not to be a witness or turn hostile in the court that is her prerogative and so be it. But even if the state is going to lose the case because the victim refuses cooperation, still they should sue him.
      Something like sexual assault on a woman ceases being a personal thing once it has come to public domain.

      1. Oh, yeah? And then who is going to provide the evidence for this crime, if not the victim (in case she is not choosing to press the charges)? What your interest is not the welfare of the victim at all, but pressing your case no matter what–and let’s have a great media circus. This is typical Kafila approach to sensitive matters.

        1. @Tanika

          I am frankly befuddled by your statement. What exactly are you referring to? How exactly are we infantilizing her? By suggesting it is her decision to decide how she wishes to pursue this case? You clearly have no idea how criminal law works. Under criminal law crimes are not committed against persons but against the state. Therefore even if the complainant chooses not to pursue the case the state is within its right to take suo moto cognisance of a crime which is what it has done in this instance. How the complainant wishes to relate to this process is up to her. Your fevered fantasies about our demise aside, please at least acquire a basic understanding of the law and legal processes before you mouth off and display your ignorance at large.

        2. Read aathi’s reply pl. Let me elaborate a little. Once a crime has been committed the state files the charges, collects evidence and present it to the court and depending on the strength of the evidence ( here in this case indirect evidence like email confession of Tejpal, testimonial of the victim’s friends, other electronic foot prints) the court may find him guilty or not. Just because a person murdered can not testify, it does not mean a crime is not committed.
          Once commission of a crime becomes a public knowledge, victims interest is only secondary public cause is primary.

  9. Much has been said about this case already. I am very happy that Tehelka, which survived for 13 years by performing a host of hatchet jobs by secretly filming people after enticing them with money, women etc, and its leaders are finally being shown up for what they are. No tears would be spared for their fall, I guess !!!!

    I am not a lawyer and I dont know anything about legal details. I am completely confused after listening to multiple statements – by Kavita Krishnan, Vrinda Grover, Shoma C etc – as also reading a few comments here, on knowing what the victim wants.
    What if the victim doesnt want criminal proceedings ? Will the case for “attempted rape” or sexual assault or whatever be dropped ? Does the victim in these cases really possess the power to “forgive and forget” ? If then, why do we have “suo moto” cases at all ? Can anyone explain this in detail ?

  10. Rape By Any Other Name

    Tarun Tejpal, the inquisitor par excellence is now himself being pilloried in the media for his “bad lapse of judgment”. This “bad lapse of judgment”, however, comes with its own palliative – his literary worth, his courageous journalism, his mastery of the art form of essay, his Midas touch are narrated in the same breath.That makes me feel so inadequate because I must confess, I have not read anything by Tejpal – essays, fiction, whatever. As a matter of fact, I do not read any fiction at all.In a world saturated by 24/7 TV and the ubiquitous print media; we live our lives as serialized fiction. Or the fictitious world is passed on to us as our very own lived lives.

    Tehelka, we have been told, has been unsparing in its efforts to expose to the glare of public scrutiny the conduct of the high and mighty without fear or favour. It did not pull any stops, it even took enormous risks in the pursuit of its objectives. Its stories called a spade not just a spade but a bloody shovel.But,uncharacteristically,Tarun Tejpal’s epistolary address to his flock before his proposed self exile – self exile, we have all begun to suspect, is a common place arty gesture, a regular indulgence-is an exercise in minimalism. When it comes to describing his own escapades, the writer whose fiction has been described as “bold,” “sexy,” “sultry,” “sizzling” evokes the literary conventions and cultural mores of the days gone by, he reduces the horrible incident to the requirements of staid domesticity. The highly shattering and traumatic incident of rape has been routinized, reduced to an embarrassing faux pas rather like getting into a heated argument with the host at a party or some other breach of decorum in a domestic setting. Euphemism characterizes the idiom of the powerful; understatements naturalize the cruelties of power by dissociating the memory of cruelties from the act itself. Language, among other things, is about naming objects, about evoking states of being but understatement subverts the natural association of the word with the mental picture.

    There are other reasons why I find the opening line of Mr. Tejpal so fascinating and worthy of extended analysis. The obscurity of the message is intended to go over the heads of people outside the Tehelka cult, should it by chance ever leak because it could be decoded only if you had the key. The key was that a rape had taken place, that the rapist was none other than the pater familas and that the secret must not get out at any cost. Nor is Tejpal’s mail to his staffers in the nature of apology; it is not act of contrition; nor for that matter are these words of repentance. It is sheer power discourse .The imprecision and obliquity of the text create a sense of moral ambiguity in order to inscribe in the minds of trusting and supplicating followers the version of truth that the powerful leader wants them to believe in. What qualifies to be called rape in the Indian penal code should be taken merely as a “mild sexual banter”. “Bad lapses of judgment, itself comes loaded with a whole baggage of memory, promises of reward and implied threat. The counterfactual has not been stated – what is the outcome of a shrewd reading of the situation, of a proper exercise of judgment. What a pity that the unspoken but clearly understood mantra of success, “This is the easiest way to keep your job” had to be made explicit to the unfortunate girl.

    Tejpal then goes on to remind them of what Tehelka is what the membership of this group means, and how he built this institution with his blood etc. Will they not excuse him this small little “drunken sexual banter”? He was even willing to recuse himself for six months and, impressed by her ability at damage control, hand over the leadership of cult Tehelka in “more capable hands “of his deputy Shoma Chaudhary.
    His trust in Shoma was not misplaced. She had not imbibed the Tehelka culture of double standards and hypocrisy in vain. When it came to fighting the biggest battle in the life of Tehelka, she betrayed her young, inexperienced but brave colleague to the demands of expediency. She tried to hush up the scandal as being an internal matter-a stance that is reminiscent of a James Thurber fable, wherein a Fox charged of eating up a rabbit says, “He is eaten and digested, so it is an internal matter.”

    Tehelka’s – soi disant (?) – moral authority is rooted in the fact while holding a mirror to the other three estates; it can pass the strictest public scrutiny in terms of its own impartiality, even handedness and fair play. It failed this test miserably. As the Tehelka story is unraveled layer by layer-it’s funding and ownership is already a subject of some curiousity- we must prepared to be disappointed. This was one more false prophet; we have once again been fooled into mistaking a garden variety cabbage for a rose

    1. Your comment is rivetting. It is so clear that TT and SC are trying to obfuscate the entire issue. The contrary statements they float about increase the uncertainty and dilute the impact of the story.

  11. Reg. adamantine, one gets the impression that SC is some sort of Wolverine to TT’s Blob, a mutant who cannot be lacerated

  12. It has been a tormenting few days for me; my law school which proclaims itself to be the best in the land has had a grave lapse of judgment. So, awful a reading of the situation that no amount of penance can atone its omission to teach me the most substantive of criminal laws, the Tehelka Penal Code! In what can only be considered as the most significant development in legal learning since Magna Carta, the Tehelka code has given criminal jurisprudence, well a new library. So, the dictum Nemo iudex in causa sua (No one can be a judge in his own cause) stands erased now, in its place the Accused is the Boss stands supreme. It also, banishes the violence of retributive justice in favour of reformative justice of penance (laceration is optional). However, the most significant contribution has been the abolition of Courts of law. Guilt and innocence shall henceforth be determined by ‘probe panels’, yes, constituted by the accused.

    Well, as this theatre of the absurd plays in town, it is imperative that expositions of law made by Ms. Choudhry, who may very well think Lex to be some sort of toiletry, need to be challenged. It is in this light that we need to understand what Vishaka actually says about a Complaints Committee (No probe panel is envisaged by Vishaka.)

    Purpose: The rationale behind having a Complaints Committee is to provide a forum for women to take up matters in the nature of sexual harassment at the work place for redressal. Also, in this capacity it is supposed to act as the eyes and ears of the law and examine the veracity of the complaints that come before it. In examining so, if any of the acts complained of, in its view, could attract provisions of the Penal code then such a complaint should be reported to the police.

    Jurisdiction: The Complaints Committee by its very nature is merely a fact finding committee and not a probe panel as the above esteemed legal luminary has stated. There is a fundamental difference between fact finding and probing aka investigation. The only bodies legally authorised to investigate are the Police, Courts, Quasi-judicial bodies viz NHRC or any other body authorised to investigate under a statute. A Complaints Committee is not any of the above.

    Let me illustrate: In the present case the concerned woman has made a complaint concerning the event or series of events that transpired in Goa. Now, the responsibility/power of the Complaints Committee is merely to ascertain whether such a thing did indeed take place or not? This is fact-finding. Probing/Investigation on the other hand involves not only ascertaining whether the alleged event did take place or not but examining whether there was culpability, to what extent and on whom did it rest? So, therefore, the findings of the Committee will have to simply answer whether a sexual act as complained of did indeed take place or not? It cannot examine the culpability of Tejpal and certainly cannot give him a clean chit.

    Remedy: A Complaints Committee can only suggest internal measures viz suspension or termination and as such at this point it cannot provide any ‘satisfactory’ remedy to the concerned woman.

    It’s, hence, puzzling that when the Goa Police has already taken suo motu cognisance of the case and Tejpal has resigned thereby rendering any efficacy of the Complaints Committee redundant, what is the purpose of constituting such a committee to look into this case?

  13. Agree with most of whats been written. only a few things. stylistically half waytrough it becomes a bit too sarcastic and caustic, takes away from the level-headed professionalism required of journalistic writing. im guessing there is a context to the ‘tone’ in this piece as well which might not be obvious to all readers :). also, just one clarification: i think by ‘politically motivated’ Tejpal means that the reason why its ‘blown out of proportion’ i.e. getting the media attention that it is getting is partly because he has a family member in the congress and the BJP has a vendetta against him for all Tehelka has written about it. Maybe there is a kernel truth to this? which is why the Goa CM was so quick to take action. and please don’t take this to mean that i think the woman journalists account is untrue.

  14. Now that Tehelka is in damage control mode, Shoma and her sidekicks are spouting a lot of hot air about the “institution” being greater than the man. What is this pompous reference to the institution? Tehelka is a small news magazine, not the Vatican!
    For years, Tehelka has projected tejpal as its public face — his face (sic) was splashed on their ads, the website, and even the magazine’s inside pages. Now they are screaming themselves hoarse, trying to separate the magazine from the man. This reeks of hypocrisy. So does all the talk about Tehelka standing for the big idea and core values which no other news outlet upholds. Tejpal’s actions and the subsequent attempts at a shameful cover-up have exposed the “big idea” fully. All we hear now is hollow words. And the sound of things crashing and burning.
    I sincerely hope the young journalist gets the justice she deserves.

  15. The journalist should slap a libel and defamation case vis-a-vis the “politically motivated” comment…

  16. I usually ignore kafila shares by ppl on fb. But this…any words I could type would rapidly wilt in front of what I can only refer to as sheer kick-assness. Kudos & luck.

  17. There appears one break in your sequence of events with regards Ms.Chaudhary, relating to the mail on 21st Nov from the complainant. The sequence of events as it appears from leaked mails currently in public domain is : She receives the complaint from the victim on 18 Nov ; Mr.Tejpal apologises 19thNov ; then Mr.Tejpal and Ms.Chaudhary write the self congratulatory mails to staffers on 20th Nov; on 21st Nov the complainant responds with her dissatisfaction at the ‘action’ taken and on 22nd Nov Ms.Chaudhary announces the creation of committee. Thus, the sequence of events allows for a more charitable view of Ms.Chaudhary’s actions, she was indeed responding to requests from the complainant while safeguarding the interests of the organization. Now the media wants to take credit for the announcement of committee formation, but one can argue that until the dissatisfaction expressed in the mail on 21st Nov, Ms.Chaudhary’s actions were motivated by her stance on the right of the complainant to choose the kind of recourse she wanted.
    As for Mr.Tejpal , his original letter to the victim can also be interpreted differently but i will not risk being lynched by the judges on the interwebs :)
    In my humble opinion your analysis of the sequence of events and letters stems more from anger and aprioi stance than a dispassionate attempt to interpret and arrive at conclusions.

    1. Thank you for this balanced comment. The witch hunt against Shoma is mind-blowing. While criticizing the media for irresponsible reporting, several journalists have gone ahead with mindless headlines to mislead viewers/readers. I am of course, waiting for Shoma’s response and for her emails to Tejpal and to the complainant. It is one thing to say that the complainant was not “satisfied” with the organization’s response or that Shoma did not stand up to the trust placed in her, by the complainant. But it is another thing to suggest that she deliberately covered-up the situation. None of those emails (public emails to a whole organization) suggest a cover up – however bad the choice of words might have been.

  18. Permit me to comment against the grain here !

    Shoma reacted like typical HR in a typical organization. I believe that was the only role she was carrying out in this case as HR, management and co-owner of the company. This is usually what happens as a first reaction. When the victim files a case, the whole hue of it changes. Those of you who expect Shoma to play the role of the feminist activist are expecting too much of her. She has too much at stake invested in Tehelka and Tejpal. She is human, with human failings; not a goddess, come on !

    As to whether not reporting the crime is itself a crime, I think not. Often victims can be pressured not to report crimes. Others who report such crimes will find themselves in much more serious trouble in cases where victims and agressors co-operate to fix the “good Samaritan”. Such things have happened, trust me. It is fully within Shoma’s right to protect herself first than play the ideal feminist.

  19. When the company’s owner indulge in ‘unfair activities’ I don’t think anyone in the organisation including CEO or HRD will have any guts to venture and try to reach rootof the issue. Rather they will be busy to hush up the matter and punish the victim than doing justice in the matter. Virtually the same thing has happened here as can be seen from some suggestions why so late, consensual etc. Nowadays getting a job is very difficult and in order to save job many workers (including females) face uphil task and tolerate to certain extent. When the matters go ‘out of control’ then they react. This is what exactly happened in this episode also and the defenders version to the contrary is quite amusing.

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