24 November, 2013

Tejpal, Shoma and a Loss of Credibility

(Pic courtesy : freerepublic.com via Google)


I had scoffed at Asaram Bapu’s statement when he said that a sure shot way to prevent rape is to call the would-be-rapist “bhaiyya”.   The Khap in Haryana added more flavour by coming out with statements that pointed towards Chinese food as the culprit behind rapes, not men.  Mohan Bhagwat went a step further by claiming western influences as the reason behind rapes and that rapes only happened in India, not Bharat.  

Tarun Tejpal has, in my honest opinion, beaten them all, hands down.  He has written the whole thing off as just “a lapse of judgment ”,“an awful misreading of the situation” and best of all, “an unfortunate incident”.  Shoma Chaudhary comes in a close second by shoving the entire matter underground and calling it an “internal matter”.  Shoma Chaudhary had gone to the extent of saying that had an email not been leaked by someone to the media, this whole matter would have been “settled internally”, within Tehelka.

If there’s one thing Tehelka is known for and feared for, it is investigative journalism.  There have been many an expose, to their credit.  This time around, when things cannot be clearer than they are, when facts have been laid bare and it is evident that a junior journalist was sexually assaulted by Tejpal, the very same Tehelka chose to do nothing and just swept the whole matter aside as an “internal affair”? 

Men assault women sexually based on two things – one, the power and second, a lack of necessity towards accountability for one’s actions.  Not surprisingly, this one reeks of both.  First, having tried to pass the whole thing off as an episode of “drunken banter”, when the heat started to increase, Tejpal chose to recuse himself from Tehelka for a period of six months.  That’s it ?  First he sexually assaults a girl who is old enough to be his daughter and then he goes on a sabbatical for six months.  That’s supposed to set the books right ?   Also, how does Tejpal get the right to decide on what he needs to do to "atone" ?  How do he and Shoma Chaudhary get to decide that a 6 month sabbatical is about just right and lacerating enough for Tejpal to atone for his "lapses in judgment" which led to the "unfortunate incident" ? 

What would Tehelka have done if it were someone else and not Tejpal ?  If someone else had sexually assaulted a junior staff member or even a member of the public and then attributed it to a “lapse of judgment” and gone off on a sabbatical for six months as atonement and a “punishment that lacerates”, would Tehelka have reacted in the same way as they are now ?  I guess not.  They too, would have been up in arms over the injustice of the whole situation and would probably have doubled the sales of their magazine by coming out all guns blazing, against the perpetrator.   Would they have been as passive if the perpetrator had simply rendered an “unconditional apology” to the victim and expected the victim to call it quits and put the whole incident behind her ? I guess not.   But when the perpetrator in question is their very own editor, Tehelka decides to play the pussy cat act and not that of a roaring tiger ?  Why the double standards ?  These were people who prided themselves and had carved a niche for themselves by taking a moral high ground on many situations.  Where did those very scruples disappear ?  Where did the moral high stand go ? 

Despite all this, Shoma Chaudhary actually has the cheek to stand up and say Tehelka does not have double standards ?  She has refused to cooperate with the police until and unless the journalist in question does not file an official police report.  When this attitude comes from the same Shoma Chaudhary who was pretty sure that this journalist would not file an official report, the whole situation starts to reek fishy - not smell, it reeks. 
Yet again, like it usually happens, among the first question people asked and people are still asking is “Why did the journalist not report the assault ?”.  I’ve said this before, I’m saying this again.  It is not her fault, so then why train the guns on her ?  While Tejpal enjoys a six month sabbatical (also to be read and construed as a “cooling down” period, by which time I’m sure he hopes the brouhaha in the public will die down), people are seen going after the girl who had to endure the ignominy of being sexually assaulted ?  When is society going to learn ?

Tejpal apparently tried to play the whole thing down as a “drunken banter”.  Going by the same questions that society asks of women who are assaulted or raped, since when has it become the norm for men to hide behind or use alcohol or inebriety as an excuse for their misdeeds ?  If a woman goes to a bar or a pub for a drink, society claims she is inviting sexual assault and rape but when a man does assault a woman or rapes her, he asks to “reap the benefits” of being in an inebriated state, thus pleading “not completely being in a sensible or functional state” ?

There are many a times when I’ve said before that a woman does, in many instances, prove to be a woman’s worst enemy.  Shoma Chaudhary, who wrote so eloquently when the whole country was up in arms after the Delhi gang rape is now sweeping the whole thing under the carpet ?  Well, she did try her best to !  She went to the extent of saying that all the journalist had asked for was an apology from Tejpal while he agreed to step down for six months.  Indeed very magnanimous – one should be moved to tears, I guess ! 

I sincerely wonder if this is the same Shoma Chaudhary, who said on Nov 13, on Twitter Ranjit Sinha should lose his job for his remark on enjoying rape. Is appalling that he can even think of defending such a remark.”  Now, this very same Ms.Chaudhary is hell bent on sweeping the whole thing away as an “internal matter”.  How is she seen defending a person who has sexually assaulted a junior journalist ?    

This is power play at its worst, at its ugliest and the hypocrisy that one has been seeing from Tejpal and Shoma Chaudhary is absolutely revolting and repulsive.

If Ms.Chaudhary really believes that this incident has nothing to do with Tehelka as a magazine, she is so far away from the truth, especially after the way she’s tried to cover up and sweep the whole thing under the carpet.  Tehelka could very well have stood apart and redeemed itself – not having to bear the cross for Tejpal’s misdeeds IF it had continued doing what it had originally been set up for – fearless, investigative journalism, exposing the truth for what it is.  Tehelka, ably led by Shoma Chaudhary, did exactly the opposite.  They, quite literally, went against the very ideals on which Tehelka had been founded and has been functioning. 


In the process, both Tehelka, Shoma and of course, the brazen Tejpal have lost values that are extremely valuable – trust, credibility and last but definitely not the least, integrity.

1 voice(s) said so:

Hip Grandma said...

Well said. Tejpal and Shoma ought to hang their heads in shame.