The complainant journalist resigns from Tehelka: ‘It is not just Mr Tejpal who has failed me as an employer — but Tehelka that has failed women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively.
Text of the letter written by the young journalist, who has accused Tehelka editor in chief Tarun Tejpal of sexually assaulting her, to Tehelka managing edigtor Shoma Chaudhury
I am resigning from my position as ****** at Tehelka magazine, with immediate effect, because Tehelka’s Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal sexually molested me on two occasions in November this year.
I am deeply traumatized by the lack of support offered by the organization.
In such circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to work for this organization.
At this moment, I would like to present the following facts to support my claim:
1. I was sexually molested by Tarun Tejpal on two occasions, the 7th and 8th of November 2013 at the annual Think festival in Goa this year. In the emails of apology that followed my complaint to you about Mr Tejpal’s grievous sexual misconduct, he admitted to the fact, and apologized unconditionally.
2. I requested, at the very least, for Mr Tejpal to acknowledge this apology publicly to the staff and bureau of Tehelka. While I did not want this acknowledgement to have graphic details, I asked that the words “sexual misconduct” be included. In a phone conversation with me, you asked that he be recused from doing so because he had already admitted to sexual molestation in his emails, and because we needed to “protect the institution”. In this conversation, I said, “I trust you to do the right thing”.
3. In the public acknowledgement sent to the bureau, Mr Tejpal and you referred to his act of sexual violation as “an untoward incident”— this was not an attempt to “protect the institution” but in fact, an attempt to cover up what had really occurred—the act of sexual molestation, an admission of the facts that Mr Tejpal had “attempted sexual liaison” with me (to quote his email) on two occasions despite my “reluctance to receive such attention”. Further, in conversations with my colleagues, you admitted to them that you did not see the need to set up an anti-sexual harassment cell as per the Vishaka guidelines, because you did not contest my version of what had occurred on the nights of 7th and 8th of November.
4. In your appearances on national news channels, you first attempted to establish that I was “satisfied” with Tehelka’s actions, when only one of my immediate demands from the organization had been met—namely, that Mr Tejpal had unconditionally apologized for sexually molesting me in private emails to you and I. His public acknowledgement of the apology did not include any reference to his grievous sexual misconduct, and you had still failed to set up an anti-sexual harassment cell as per Vishaka guidelines. This could, in no way, have left me “satisfied”. Further, I had responded to both of Mr Tejpal’s emails (cc’d to you and the three colleagues I had confided everything to since the 7th of November) clarifying:
- that his behaviour could not be described as “sexual liaison”, and that was in fact an act of sexual molestation and a violation of bodily integrity and trust, since it occurred (by his own admission) despite my refusal.
- A sexual act carried out without consent cannot be justified on any basis.
- That after Mr Tejpal (by his own admission) had referred to his position of power over me in the organization, he did not withdraw this statement as his emails allege.
You continued to ignore my rebuttals to these emails, while insisting, in public, that I was satisfied.
5. You are now attempting to establish that Mr Tejpal has “another version” of events (as surely, any sexual predator does), and that the “encounter” may have been consensual or non-consensual. Meanwhile, on the night of the 22nd of November, an immediate member of Mr Tejpal’s family went to my mother’s house to ask her the details of my legal counsel, and what I “wanted” as a result of my complaint about being sexually molested by Mr Tejpal. In emails and text messages sent to his friends, read out on national news channels, Mr Tejpal is now claiming that what occurred was a “fleeting, consensual encounter”; and that he wrote his apologies to me because of your “adamantine feminist principles”.
Over the past years, we have collectively defended the rights of women, written about custodial rape, sexual molestation at the workplace, spoken out harshly against the culture of victim blame and the tactical emotional intimidation and character assassination of those who dare to speak out against sexual violence.
At a time when I find myself victim to such a crime, I am shattered to find the Editor in Chief of Tehelka, and you— in your capacity as Managing Editor— resorting to precisely these tactics of intimidation, character assassination and slander.
Given the sequence of events since the 7th of November, it is not just Mr Tejpal who has failed me as an employer—but Tehelka that has failed women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively.
Please consider my resignation effective immediately.
e tactical emotional intimidation and character assassination of those who dare to speak out against sexual violence.
At a time when I find myself victim to su