Tehelka has shamed us all
There is nothing more disheartening and inglorious than seeing the lurid spectacle of the Tehelka sexual harassment case unfold on the national stage. The proprietor and editor-in-chief of the magazine, Tarun Tejpal, who had the audacity to ‘recuse’ himself for six months as a penance for his ‘bad lapse of judgment’, is still taking the moral high ground. Nauseatingly, the management of Tehelka, represented by the snarling Shoma Chaudhury, is still hell bent on insisting that the magazine has done the right thing, despite openly proclaiming that it wouldn’t cooperate with the Goa police until and unless the young journalist files an FIR herself. This is unacceptable to say the least. Moreover, this is downright hypocritical, because Tehelka, by conducting itself in such a regrettable manner, has managed to shame the entire media fraternity. Given the charges of sexual assault and alleged rape against Tejpal, how can the company keep on insisting that they have not erred? In fact, Chaudhury, in her ‘tearful’ defence of the indefensible Tarun Tejpal, has even insinuated that there is an ‘other version’, that of the alleged rapist himself, which is still inaccessible to the public domain, thereby hinting that possible character assassination of the young journalist could very well happen in the next few days. This is reprehensible, at the very least. Chaudhury has let down every woman who has fought for her rights in the work place and have demanded equality, liberty and dignity at par with the men in the professional set up.
Not only have the moral high ground taken by Chaudhury and Tejpal are utterly intolerable, they are equally insufferable for their making a big show of their seeming ‘selflessness,’ making a big mockery of whatever perfunctory apology that the editor-in-chief had issued to the company and the younger woman. Tehelka has been so vocal in its castigation of all and sundry who had remotely transgressed the line of propriety, whether it is in politics, gender relations, caste or class biases, among other axes and modes of perpetuating exploitation and discrimination, that it is the heights of irony that the top brass of the publication had to live to see this day. More disturbingly, it is Shoma Chaudhury, rather than anyone else, whose stellar articles and columns on the issue of sexual harassment and rape, particularly in the wake of the 16 December gang rape, had made the media and the public sphere sit up and take note of the myriad and complicated problems facing women in this country. Where has that vocal critic of double standards vanished now? Whatever happened to the mandatory institutional legal responsibility to look into a sexual harassment complaint made by an employee? Have Chaudhury and Tejpal designed their own jury and exonerated themselves from culpability?