A number of people are saying that Tarun Tejpal has been held guilty and convicted by a media trial. They are saying that the media and public have both chosen to not hear “the other side of the story”.
That claim, put simply, is incorrect. From day one of the story, “the other side” was heard. We read Tejpal’s emails and those of his lieutenant Shoma Choudhary. We heard Choudhury speak and defend herself endlessly on TV. On news channels, in print and on the web, we’ve heard a long list of luminaries defend Tejpal: Sanjoy Roy, Alyque Padamsee, Namita Devidayal, Dilip Tahil, Rahul Singh, Prem Shankar Jha, Roger Cohen, Anusha Rizvi, Manisha Sethi, Palash Krishna Mehrotra, Charu Nivedita, BG Verghese, Bina Ramani, Nirupama Sekhri, Madhu Trehan, Rahul Da Cunha and then some. Latest additions to the list are Seema Mustafa, Manu Joseph and Anurag Kashyap.
All of these people tell us the other side of the story, which is incoherent and constantly changing. Let’s be fair to them. Let’s listen to what Tarun Tejpal has to say. Continue reading Let’s be fair to Tarun Tejpal. Let us listen to his side of the story
This is a revised version of an article that appeared in Seminar January 2014.
The past year is bookended by two extraordinary moments, both of them inspired by the courage and determination of young women who refused to take sexual violence as routine.
December 2012 – a young paramedic fought till her last breath for justice.
November 2013 – a law intern exposed the sexual assault she faced from a retired Judge and a Tehelka journalist taught Tarun Tejpal a long deferred lesson – No Means No.
The massive mobilization of public opinion around these incidents has reopened the question of ‘agency’ in familiar and unfamiliar ways.
Feminists have long asserted women’s agency in contexts of sexual violence by attempting to desexualize rape – in law and in everyday life. Taken out of patriarchal discourses of honour, rape is merely an act of violence that violates bodily integrity. This delicate balance between two opposing notions – on the one hand, that sexual violence has a distinctive character, it is more humiliating, more paralyzing than physically less harmful actions; and on the other, that sexual violence is merely another kind of physical violence – this is the razor’s edge occupied by feminist understandings of rape. Continue reading The Conundrum of Agency in Sexual Violence
Meet Tarun Tejpal’s spin doctors
Unlike Justice (Retd.) Ashok Kumar Ganguly, Tarun Tejpal’s defenders cannot cry innocence given that Tejpal has confessed to his crime, albeit disputing the degree of it. He has even confessed having told his colleague that suffering the sexual assault was the “easiest way of keeping your job”. Even his two decades old comrade Shoma Choudhury is unable to defend him beyond saying that he has his versions. Nobody buys Tejpal’s ludicrous retractions.
This put Tejpal’s friends, fellow molesters and self-defeating secularists in a bind. Many of his friends have chosen silence, which is understandable. It is only human to recuse oneself from the difficult choice between principle and friendship. Though some like Arundhati Roy and Sankarshan Thakur have admirably chosen principle over personal association. But those who wanted to come out and actually defend Tejpal were at a loss for words. How do they defend a crime whose perpetrator has confessed to it? So they came up with a few sly defences which pretend to be nuances. Some like BG Verghese are writing as though they were ghostwriting Shoma Choudhury’s defence.
So let us lacerate these defences one by one.
‘Trial by media, lynch mob’
Continue reading Presenting the Perpetrator as Victim