Tarun Tejpal’s Tehelka Case

Ample debates on rising rape cases in India have been going on. Dress sense of females and societal norms are being scrutinized but law takes its own course to uncover the stories and to punish the culprits. Recent Tehelka rape case reveals that not only strangers and slum dwellers but people from so called sophisticated and elite society are also in the list of crime against women. When the entire India is burning in the rape issues, then a renowned Editor of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal has been accused of sexually harassing his colleague not once but twice in the lift of a five star hotel in Goa during an annual Tehelka conference. Tehelka is an investigative journalism weekly magazine that specializes in doing sting operation to find out real culprit and corrupt politicians. It also writes extensively on the issues related to sexual violence.

Tarun Tejpal launched Tehelka as a website in 2000 and started working on the biggest stories of India. It carried out Operation West End in 2001 on bribe and fake deals. The website was forcefully shutdown but relaunched in 2004 as a newspaper and after three years as a weekly magazine. Tejpal had been listed as one of Asia’s 50 most powerful communicators. He was also declared among 50 leaders at the forefront of change in Asia by BusinessWeek. After much recognition, the 50 years old journalist, author and editor is now amidst of a sensual case of rape. His young female co-worker who is also a close friend of Tejpal’s daughter accused him of assaulting her in the lift of a five-star hotel in Goa on 7 and 8 November. He called these allegations very serious and asked authorities to examine CCTV footage for clarity. CCTV footage has also shown a female running out of the lift and managing her clothes.

Series of email by Tarun Tejpal to rationalize his behavior were enough to instigate the case. Tarun also left the editorship of Tehelka for six months. Over the period of twenty days emails related to the incident were exchanged among victim, Tarun Tejpal and former Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury that changed the entire course of the case. Not only this but the time being managing editor Shoma Chaudhury’s reactions were also favoring Tarun Tejpal. She wrote an email to staff stating that this awkward incident is to be dealt internally. After this, Tejpal wrote an email to the victim stating  his unconditional apology. In this email he clearly mentioned his attempt for a sexual liaison despite victim’s unwillingness.  Shoma Chaudhury was criticized which forced her to quit from her position along with six other staffers of Tehelka. Court also rejected an extension of Tejpal’s bail and so he was arrested. A Goa Sessions court has sent Tarun Tejpal to police custody for six days for interrogation. The case has seriously affected the Tehelka magazine and its staff.

Earlier Tejpal also set up a publishing house, India Ink which published the first novel of Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things. Responding to the rape case, Arundhati Roy wrote a column with the title “This is Rape Number 2” in Outlook Magazine. In this column she described Tarun Tejpal as her friend and as a very supportive and generous person. She was heartbroken but not shocked after hearing this incident.

Tehelka rape case is now the headline of every leading newspaper in India and Tehelka magazine is also criticized greatly by the media. It is giving rise to many questions like how a man like Tejpal can do such a crime and that too with a young colleague and his daughter’s friend.  Apart from this Shoma Chaudhury’s email stating that it is an internal issue became a point of argument and got much media attention. After brutal gang rape and murder case in Delhi last year, this case also stirred the masses.

These kinds of sexual assault against working women in India indicate the kind of arrangement we have for the safety of women. When the accused is from the affluent society then it becomes really hard to punish him and on the other hand victim faces the hardships and considered as a troublemaker. After the Delhi gang rape and murder case, Sexual Harassment of Women in Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act was passed by the parliament but it is still waiting to be enforced. There must be stringent law defining the safety of women at workplace and every company must abide by the law. Renowned persons must set good examples of great moral character rather than doing such scandalous crimes.