Tehelka: How do you associate a sexual assault with someone who you thought stood up for justice?

Here is a case that was, at first, difficult to understand – because the person accused of attempting the sexual assault was someone who had seemed to be more likely to prevent than to attempt a sexual assault. But then how much did we know the person? We only knew the publication.

Do take a look at the young sexual assault survivor’s email that describes what happened: link removed

[Note:  The email has been removed from the above link, and I have removed the link. I think sharing some quotes from the statements (if any) made by the survivor would have been the right thing to do, instead of sharing a private email which does encroach upon the assault survivors’ privacy.

The reason I shared the link was that the email did help (me) in understanding the crime, specially when the perpetrator was someone I (many others) looked upon as morally upright, and for a change it was someone who was not blaming the victim (the email conveyed that his accusations were worse) and was willing to ‘atone’.  Now I feel, irrespective of the details of a crime, no matter how difficult to believe a crime is – a survivor’s story should be taken seriously without causing them further trauma and a thorough and immediate investigation should be carried out/demanded.] 

It seems he admitted to ‘an awful misreading of the situation‘. What if the survivor had not reported? Would he have continued to ‘misread the situation’?

It also seems that it was seen as enough, by those who were supposed to take action (Shoma Chaudhury) that he was permitted to choose what he should do to “atone” for “…a bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation.”

Why was it thought that the one who allegedly committed a crime could choose what he should do to ‘atone’?

What action do you think should have been/should be taken?

Tejpal had on Wednesday announced his decision to step down as editor of Tehelka for six months following the journalist’s complaint to Chaudhury on November 18 alleging that while on duty she was sexually assaulted by Tejpal on two occasions on November 7 and 8 at the magazine’s annual ThinkFest.

Chaudhury also came under fire on Thursday for her handling of the situation. She had told a TV channel, “There was an incident which has been dealt with internally. An unconditional apology was extended by Tarun. The journalist concerned was satisfied with the action taken.” The journalist responded by saying, “I am deeply disappointed with Tehelka’s response. The claim that I am ‘satisfied’ is false.”

In her mail to Chaudhury, which details the two separate alleged incidents as well as everything that happened before and after, the journalist said, “Both times, I returned to my room in a completely distraught condition, trembling and crying.” She said she had reported both incidents to three colleagues who were also in Goa for the festival. She said Tejpal later sent her text messages insinuating that she had “misconstrued” the “drunken banter”.

What makes such men attempt sexual assaults? Disrespect for the person they assault? A sense of their own power to get away with the crime? Or just lack of awareness that ‘only Yes means Yes’?

There was another similar report, recently – ‘The woman said she was inebriated when a co-worker took her to a room and raped her.’ Weren’t such assaults ever reported earlier?

This case affirms, once again, that the biggest and the first step in tackling sexual assaults is ensuring that potential victims have a Voice.

Sorry boss, we found our voice

The Tehelka episode is the latest in the series of examples of women speaking up against sexual harassment

This will be known as the year rapists, sexual molesters, perverts, predators and assorted other Indian creeps realized they can no longer count on that one big assumption that makes them so brazen: Indian women don’t like sharing horror stories.


Goa probes alleged sexual assault by Tehelka founder Tarun Tejpal 

Deeply disappointed with Tehelka response, says woman journalist to NDTV

Tehelka’s Tarun Tejpal molests employee, gives himself 6-month leave

Related Posts:

Tehelka: a bad lapse of judgment and awful misreading of Vishakha guidelines. 

‘The woman said she was inebriated when a co-worker took her to a room and raped her.’

All she knew was that until his arrest, he came home for dinner every night, “He was to me like any husband is to his wife,” she said.

The rapists often don’t see their actions as crimes, the police said, and don’t expect the victims to report them.

The recent investigations by Tehelka.com have shown that not just the rapists, but even the police and the society don’t seem to be aware  that forced sex is rape (and a crime).

Controlling crimes against women: What works, what doesn’t work.

So how does Delhi – NCR Police define Rape?

Yet another rape that was not about lust but about aggression, revenge and putting the victim in her place.


56 thoughts on “Tehelka: How do you associate a sexual assault with someone who you thought stood up for justice?

    • yes, it is indeed disgusting. All these celebrities are hypocrites.

      The saddest part is educated women who claim to be paragons of virtue are also party to this. Shoma Chaudhary did everything in her power to hide this crime and she is the same woman who was demanding resignation of the judge involved in the recent sexual harassment episode. I am sure there are a lot of skeletons in the closets of all these high profile people; its just that they have a mutual protection society where every crook protects every other crook.

      Finally, Tejpal should be bought to book. It is not for him or the victim to decide what punishment should be given to him, if he is found guilty(which i guess is a forgone conclusion given his admission of the same in his letter to Shoma). I totally do not agree with the fact that that the case should not be lodged against him because the victim is satisfied with his ‘atonement’. The law must take its course. IN any case what can be expected of an internal inquiry when Tejapal is the owner with family members in influential position in the publication.

      Following things come out of this entire episode:
      1. The conscious keepers of the society i.e the media are the keepers only as long as it does not affect their ilk.
      2. The power of social media( and the likes of this blog, although i don’t always agree with the comments of the blog). Were it not for twitter/ FB pressure this too would have been brushed under the carpet as an “untoward incident”
      3. Being a woman, an educated one at that, does not imply sympathy with the victim’s cause. Principles take a back seat when it comes to close ones and career aspirations.
      4. More and more girls are speaking up against something. I am sure many old timers have experienced something like this but did not speak up.

      Tejapal may be a good journalist but he should be bought to book if he is wrong.
      Shoma should be bought to book for not implementing the guidelines to be followed while such cases are reported.

      I may read their workand Tehelka in future but until the guilty are punished i boycott Shoma, Tejpal and Tehelka( for their mismanagement and the fact that editor Shoma is still the editor.)


    • did anyone notice the girl’s email missing from the Sahara link above? the email is being wiped out from one site after the other… scary!


  1. This incident again highlights the iniquities in justice based on who the perpetrator is. Where is the big and hue and cry? Tejpal’s letter of ‘atonement’ has to be the biggest joke of the year!
    He ‘recuses’ himself!!
    My biggest salute to the young girl who stood up against this paragon who supposedly fights against injustice. Or is it that he thinks anything done against a woman is just?
    The saddest part it is as if there is no one, absolutely no one without a feet of clay


  2. Wao, Drunk in power.
    “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.”

    So it is the job of an abused to keep an abuser’s profile clean and family intact.

    This is a year of sexual perverts in India.
    Desi Girl


  3. look at who has supported him and how! total revulsion!

    “Javed Akhtar: It is a shame that some one with such impeccable values has committed such an act but unlike some he has the guts to accept and repent…It is not a case of rape or molestation why are they hiding the identity of the lady . She should call a press con and tell the truth…she is very clever… See that she doesn’t escape in an auto … We have laid a trap ..” wow!! Some protection.!!!”

    ‘it is not a case of rape or molestation” – what is it then ?


    • I am digusted by Javed Akhtar’s comment. ‘He has the guts to accept and repent’? So he says there is something to accept and still all but calls the woman a liar. Yuck.


    • He later claims to be misinformed about the situation [*thought it was drunken misbehaviour at a party* – the tweet has been deleted]. I still don’t understand why that could have been a reasonable response – despite all the ignorance he claims – or more importantly, how one can make such atrocious statements without being well-informed. Sigh.


  4. “The Tehelka-assault story shows how a ‘lack of awareness’ doesn’t always lead men to commit VAW. How much more aware can one be?”


  5. Non reporting of Sexual Harassment for ages have led man to believe that woman are sex slaves born to satisfy the sexual needs of man when and where ever the need arose, with and whom so ever this need arose
    This all starts at family level and keeps going on as none is willing to report it at the family . The ladies of the family always are more protective of the man folk and feel all such things bring blemish on the family repute { even in this case it should have been the daughter to have got her dad arrested immediately }
    Also its a common practice the higher the man rises the lower he falls , take into account all the cases that happen in work place whether in india or usa or elsewhere the male boss thinks its his RIGHT AS A BOSS to command respect from woman employee , and commanding respect means satisfaction of their sexual needs in which ever way they want .
    Also woman needs to always understand that when ever some helps them going out of the way there is a ulterior motive to exploit as soon the situation arises not just the situation but the child/ girl / woman , the man feels the person is so obliged that will never report BUT
    things have changed , woman have evolved and this is the biggest ERROR of judgement the man make , they are not willing to accept this evolution .


  6. Pingback: Boss & Employee Sexual Relationship: Who is using whom? | My Journey so far....

  7. I think it’s pathetic that the girl did not file an FIR. Nor did anyone she confided in advised her to do so – neither her colleagues nor Tiya, Tejpal’s daughter. And then comes Shoma Chaudhury. Every single person her has failed their humanity. Why can’t we be compassionate? It’s a small step to thinking, “what if I were in her place, what if this was someone I was related to?” Why is protecting the boss, the institution head so bloody important! It’s not this episode only. Why is that retired SC judge’s identity being protected? To protect the image of the judicial institution? Public disclosure and not the acts of the judge are seen as tarnishing the judiciary’s image? All this just shows us just how backward we are as a society. Everything is about the ‘image’. Nothing about the reality. It is this mentality that spawns and encourages sickos such as Tejpal and others. I’ll best this is the tip of an iceberg; after all, tejpal’s daughter has herself talked about what she saw when she was 13. Who knows what all has gone on… One last word: for our society to treat us as an individual, we must conduct ourselves as an individual first, independent of the trappings of our gender. We must take a look at what happened in an objective manner; a physical space was violated, it’s a crime, it’s morally reprehensible, it was consciously done, it was planned and executed. It could have been anyone on either end. It’s bad, deserving of punishment in every scenario. That’s just it. Could have been you, could have been me.


  8. I agree there was a blacking out and downsizing for a day or two by many media houses as it would be washing their own dirty laundry in public. This is indeed a more severe crime according to me too because a so called “intellectual” of the society who is in a position of power from where he needs to speak up against crimes and criminals himself is no better.


  9. The strangest thing is that he is being upheld as a martyr by some for offering to take a 6 month holiday. Wow. How great he is, eh! Let’s also ask the Delhi rapists to get out of jail and atone as they see fit.. maybe one will temporarily give up chocolates or something. Atonement done! Who needs a justice system? Who cares that his atonement means nothing to his victim?


  10. This goes to prove,yet again,that rape is only about power/control and nothing else.Its not about sex or economical status of the offender or about unsatisfied sexual needs or a lack of awareness.Lack of awareness that only a ‘yes means yes’ is least applicable because the offender is least bothered about consent.All he is thinking of is himself, his power, his ability.. He is the most powerful man, he felt, so he just let the power do the talking.He saw himself as the boss, at work and in her personal life too.
    He even suggested it was the easiest way to keep her job.Easiest is the word he used.Disgusting.


  11. This is awful and definitely sexual assault and not ‘drunken banter.’ I think the guy should have gone to trial, he should have had to pay a settlement, and do either community service under probation or gone behind bars as per the judge’s decision. He should most definitely be fired from his job.

    I do have a question though–if the victim did not make this public, how did the media get a hold of her email to her immediate boss?


    • Under new laws, what Tejpal has done is considered rape. He needs to serve several years of imprisonment. Additionally, Shoma Choudhury has participated in trying to suppress the victim. Tampering with evidence is also a criminal offense. She needs to serve a jail term as well..


      • I agree with Tejpal being put behind bars but how has Shoma Choudhury participated in tampering with evidence? Not going to the police =/= tampering with evidence. At worst, it’s apathy.

        While she most definitely is blaming the victim, and that’s disgusting in and of itself, that’s an action that does not warrant jail time. I see your zeal to put her behind bars as misogynistic as well.


        • Tehelka did violate Vishaka guidelines under which companies are obliged to set up anti-sexual harassment committees to examine such complaints. Not sure if Shoma could be held directly accountable as she did dismiss the complaint without further investigations as mandated by law. However, they seemed to have remedied this last night by constituting a committee, thanks to all the media attention.


        • “I see your zeal to put her behind bars as misogynistic as well.”

          I suggest you introspect a little. How can a demand for putting Shoma Chowdhury in jail for covering up a rape possibly be considered misogynistic? You are seeing the ghost of misogyny everywhere.

          I see your zeal to save Shoma Chowdhury as much more misogynistic.


  12. It is a lesson that there are many Asaram Bapus hiding in the Delhi cocktail circuit. It is extremely unlikely that Tejpal has done something like this for the first time. Such people are usually serial predators. How many women have suffered in silence under Tejpal before someone finally spoke up?

    I am yet to see sections of the media stand up in outrage and demand that Tejpal and Shoma Choudhury, who was trying to cover the evidence, be arrested. Top intellectuals like Javed Akhtar have solidly backed Tejpal. A grave injustice is happening. Simply because the criminals here belong to the English speaking upper strata of society, they are getting a free pass. Like Asaram Bapu’s ashrams, the entire Tehelka network needs to be sealed and probed until the full truth comes out.


    • The email form the victim states Tejpal’s daughter saying that she saw him doing this to a woman when she was 13. Probably not his first time and wouldn’t have been his last.


    • Education does exactly NOTHING in changing these misogynistic mindsets. You’d think that the head of a journalistic outfit and a renowned poet would be enlightened minds **sigh**


  13. I’m actually numb on so many accounts from this one that it is taking me some time to sink in all the information and the enormity of the depravity it represents. What message does Shoma Choudary think by stating that she’ll not co-operate with the Goa police?


  14. She needs to file an FIR – Plain and simple. What she did was very brave and very clear and concise but the missing step is the FIR, an unconditional apology should not satisfy her or anyone. As for his 6 month atonement, goo he can atone AFTER he pays for his crimes.
    First he needs to be fired. and then prosecuted. then he can do whatever he wants for himself.


    • At the cost of being hated here, I think the complainant is taking advantage of this situation too. Who in their right mind would accept an apology for sexual assault? I’d want to see my attacker suffer for violating my person. If she’s accepting this damn atonement and apology, she’s riding the wave. Now when she leaves Tehelka, she’s looked at as the brave woman that stood up and she’s going to see offers pouring in.

      Just for clarification, I DO NOT CONDONE SEXUAL ASSAULTS. I DO NOT SUSPECT THE LADY’S STORY. I am just really disappointed in the woman’s actions and keep wondering why she did not take the trouble of filing an FIR and testifying against her attacker.


        • IHM, I don’t discount those reactions at all. I have no qualms with the fact that she took time to bring it up. But taking legal action is often tough. But if you don’t do it and accept something as lame as an apology, that doesn’t cut it. That is injustice to every other woman who have been abused by this loser and has been scared into staying quiet.


        • Btw, I apologize if my post comes across as victim blaming. I am just expressing my disappointment in that none of the women involved, including the victim took the bull by its horns. After this 6 month self imposed vacation, that man is going to go back to his ways because the example has now been set 😦


      • “Who in their right mind would accept an apology for sexual assault?”

        She hasn’t accepted it and she hasn’t accepted the atonement letter either. You’ll see if you look into the link provided to her email. In fact she says that his apology is not enough for her or for the staff at Tehelka and complains that the ‘atonement’ email was circulated at Tehelka but her letter was not.

        She hasn’t said she wants an FIR but she does want an investigation cell set up at Tehelka. She might not want to file an FIR for all sorts of reason, maybe she fears harassment considering that Tejpal is a big man and can exert influence on the police. She is making noise and not settling for an apology though.


      • Pls read –
        Time male Editors stopped recruitin such quasi-whores;4th Estate is no brothel….I blame all climbers who flaunt assets like bitches in heat awaiting a weak moment to pounce upom…… .IF GENUINE it can be proved before a court of law. She shud ‘ve filed a police complaint imm instead of raising media hype….heard once bitten twice shy? Two attempts??? ……..was talking abt Tarun Tejpal who is different.Most editors r spineless puppets of owners who kno nothing but cash.

        Not my views,
        these are on twitter a young female journo who seems to believe the Man has been FIXED

        don’t know what to say its frightening,….


      • Umm, when a woman complains of harassment, job offers miraculously dry up. I’m a former journalist and I have personal experience of how strong and tightly knit the old boy’s network is in Indian journalism.
        Look around you: how many major publications are headed by female editors? Close to zilch. It’s not accidental. Many female journalists just don’t get invited into the old boy’s network that rules Indian English language journalism.


  15. Worth pondering:

    After learning that Tarun Tejpal sexually assaulted a female journalist, Tehelka editor Shoma Chaudhry refuses to go to police on what is clearly a matter for criminal investigation, insisting that the “internal panel” constituted by her is the better route.


  16. Some ppl were saying the letter should not have been shared publicly. But I think if it was not shared no one would known the details and this would never had become a big issue. Tehelka would have buried it internally


  17. Added this note: The email has been removed from the above link, and I have deleted the link. I think sharing some quotes from the statements (if any) made by the survivor would have been the right thing to do, instead of sharing a private email which does encroach upon the assault survivors’ privacy.

    The reason I shared the link was that the email did help (me) in understanding the crime, specially when the perpetrator was someone I (many others) looked upon as morally upright, and for a change it was someone who was not blaming the victim (the email conveyed that his accusations were worse) and was willing to ‘atone’. Now I feel, irrespective of the details of a crime, no matter how difficult to believe a crime is – a survivor’s story should be taken seriously without causing them further trauma and a thorough and immediate investigation should be carried out/demanded.


    • I read t full email from ur link first and it helped in understanding t case. If Javed Akhthar had read it first , he won’t have come out with stupid insensitive statements.


      • So it is OK to pass judgement on the girl demanding that she come out in public just because one doesnt know the details of the case? Javed Akhtar like many of the ‘elite’ stood very exposed this time around, let us admit that


    • Thanks for removing the link IHM. I have to admit that I read the letter from your blog and found it horrifying. Every line I was imagining how it would have felt for the journalist that an *Uncle*, a family friend and now a professional colleague, would do something so disrespectful. Then I was sad that something like this was on a public domain; it would have been traumatic enough to have to put it down on paper.


  18. This thing of hiding the victim’s name in sexual assault case sounds very patriarchial. Imagine if it was a robbery or non sexual assault? Y no one is hiding t victim’s name in case of Bangalore ATM assault? Y only in sexual assault cases this secrecy? #Patriarchy


  19. I am disappointed with Shoma’s attempt to cover up since I respected her a lot as a journalist. I make a humble appeal and let’s spread the word since many people have been putting the victim’s letter and e-mail on social network site. Let’s refrain from doing it since it violates the person’s privacy and may affect the case, chances are Tejpal may get away with a weak case.


  20. I just came in and I feel the post contains too little info to make comments. We can only speculate why this event is going to the media? It could go to the police and an internal committee. I can see a lot lf reactions from commenters, but I don’t think I can agree with anyone unless more details are out. I also see so many versions of the story out in the wild


  21. Absolutely disgusting. It is nothing but a blatant rape.

    I must say that reading the victim’s email helped me form a correct opinion about this incident. I think it is important that these stories are narrated.


  22. Tarun Tejpal is not the first among those with talent, power, prestige and wealth who somehow cannot keep their urges under control, and who cannot find willing partners so that they can indulge consensually but take advantage of vulnerable young women.
    Others I can recall are:
    Bill Clinton
    Dominic Strauss Kahn

    Bill and Berlusconi at least did not force themselves on their women.
    They used their power to influence their women.

    Closer home:
    ND Tiwari
    Abishek Sanghvi
    The supreme court judge whose name is being protected.
    I also remember KPS Gill, though he did not go that far.

    These are cases which have been publicised.
    I wonder how many have never been reported.

    I hope and pray, the law of the land will be followed and the case will come to a logical and morally correct end.


  23. “Why was it thought that the one who allegedly committed a crime could choose what he should do to ‘atone’?”
    THIS! Why indeed, when you cannot choose your own punishment in any other crime.


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