where trouble was needed

November 22, 2013

The Penance of Tarun Tejpal

Filed under: Provocations — Aravinda @ 6:46 am

As if we weren’t already disillusioned by the declining standards of Tehelka from its eminent days of exposing arms dealers and communal rioters, and barely able to give benefit of the doubt when it comes to the corporate sponsorship of conferences like THINK that pretend to be venues of socially and politically conscious discourse, with the aim of working for a just society,

… and the pain still raw from the death of Tarun Sehrawat, courageous young journalist who worked for Tehelka and, while on assignment in Chattsigarh, succumbed to malaria at the age of 23,

… now we find not only has THINK turned out to be far more than the venue for the media to get in bed with corrupt industrialists but for the editor-in-chief of what the world hailed as one of the last bastions of independent, investigative journalism, Tehelka, Mr. Tarun Tejpal, to engage in sexual assault of a staffer, behind the closed elevator doors of a luxury hotel.

AND that the best excuse he could offer for his behavior was that it was “drunken banter.”

Pardon my ignorance, but some of us are shocked that the THINK conference hosts “drunken banter.”

But I’m afraid it is way too late for that.

In his own words, Tarun Tejpal’s crime – “misreading” a situation, an “untoward incident, “a bad lapse of judgement,” and, as a last resort, “drunken banter.”

The most unkindest cut of all, though is his “penance,” which he calls “the penance with lacerates me.”

No word for what he has done to her: it is all so vague – it is a situation, an, incident, a banter … the closest we get to a verb here is “misreading.” But for himself, the verb is sharp and clear: “lacerate.”

The more I read of Tejpal’s letter, the more I wanted him to STOP.  For a journalist he seems astonishingly oblivious to the fact that the more he says the sleazier he sounds.

This case reminds me of a recent sequence of events involving sexual harassment in the media profession – the case of Bora Zivkovic, a leading light in the science blogging community, who had helped many science writers, both men and women, and yet harassed and molested several women along the way.  Stories of his behavior were almost as revolting as Tejpal’s but at least when the women finally spoke out in public, he apologized without making any excuse:

I decided to check Tejpal’s twitter feed but found zero tweets.

Tarun Tejpal Twitter

In any case all we have to go on is the self-declared penance (a word associated with rishis doing tapas) and his series of euphemisms for his crime. The “drunken banter” excuse makes me grimace most of all.

After reading the letter that the concerned journalist wrote to Shoma Choudary, this has gone beyond disgusting.  NOTE:  I leaned that this letter was illegally leaked without the consent of the journalist.  Read the Statement of Journalists on this matter.

Creating a hostile environment (as “drunken banter” might) is bad enough but according to her letter what he has done is criminal by any standard.  Merely resigning from Teheka will not be enough. I expect him to go to jail for this. He is unlikely to get a job in journalism, or anywhere, again.

And he has succeeded in getting the BJP and AIDWA to agree on something, namely where he can go to do his penance. 

Jail is best place for Tejpal’s atonement: Brinda Brinda Karat  (AIDWA) November 22, 2013
Let him atone in jail, Meenakshi Lekhi (BJP), November 21 2013.


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