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Tarun Tejpal's 'Unconditional Apology'

 

Ever since news came in that the Goa Police had registered a rape case against Tarun Tejpal in response to a young journalist's charges of sexual assault against him, there was a change of stance, instead of this being touted as an "internal matter" or counter questions about whether or not one was an aggrieved party, we now suddenly started hearing insinuations about there being different versions of what had actually happened, and whether what had earlier been dismissed as an "untoward incident" was, in the words of Tehelka managing editior, "consensual or non-consensual".

The following text from Tarun Tejpal, purportedly sent to his friends, also did the rounds today:

All my actions so far were out of an attempt to preserve the girl's dignity and on Shoma's adamantine feminist-principle insistence that I keep correct form by apologising. The truth is it was a fleeting, totally consensual encounter of less than a minute in a lift (of a two-storey building!) Now that a committee has been announced the truth will come out. As will the cctv footage. My life and work have been trashed on a total lie.

Earlier in the day, Tejpal himself put out a statement:

There have been serious allegations cast on me in this last week, and unfortunately as sometimes happens in life, the complete truth and the need to do the honorable thing can come into conflict. In this case this anguish was accentuated by the fact that very many intimate people, professional and personal, were involved.

For four days, as demanded by Shoma Chaudhury, the managing editor, and the recipient of the complaint, I have tried to do what was honorably demanded of me. On Tuesday I issued an apology for the alleged misconduct, as desired by the journalist through Shoma Chaudhury. On Wednesday I stepped down from the editorship of Tehelka and removed myself from the office premises. On Thursday I learnt of  the formation of the complaints committee.  

I offer my fullest cooperation to the police and all other authorities, and look to  presenting all the facts of this incident to it. I also urge the committee and the police to obtain, examine and release the cctv footage so that the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed. 

Tarun J Tejpal

Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury mentioned on NDTV that Tejpal and she were being judged solely on the "wrong tonality" of the earlier leaked emails, and that the unconditional apology that Tarun Tejpal had given the complainant could perhaps help place Tehelka's behaviour in context.

We have been able to get a copy of the "unconditional apology" that Tarun Tejpal wrote to the young journalist on Tuesday, November 19, which, inter alia, clearly states:

I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.

That even this 'unconditional apology' itself was insincere becomes clear from the response to this email by the young journalist who writes categorically:

The use of the words “sexual liaison” is a clear misrepresentation of facts, and an attempt to obfuscate the truth — that he sexually molested me, on two separate occasions and that he violated my bodily integrity and trust.

Clearly, we need to see today's spin about a "totally consensual encounter" in the context of the whole sequnce of events -- -- the "recusal", the "atonement", the stated need for a "penance that lacerates", the "unqualified apology", the refusal to set up a committee, the refusal to lodge a complaint, the rush to hush up the case, the about-turn when it is established that the charge of rape actually is made out under the amended law, the flipflops in their emails, in their appearances on TV, and the committee that they finally announced, insisting all this while that they would not co-operate with the police, and then the convenient and sudden insinuations of how there are"two versions" but that it did not really matter whether it was "consensual or non-consensual[" and then eventually to how it was all about the dignity of the woman in question -- and the following emails that provide a pretty detailed account of what actually happened on the nights of Nov 7 and 8.

Postscript: Edited to add at 10:46 PM: the Indian Express is carrying a report by Ritu Sarin: It’s a lie, I am being framed, says Tarun Tejpal, blaming "political forces driving much of it":

"It is a totally mendacious account of what happened, in its details, in its tonalities, in its very suggestion of non-consensus." 

"In cold light of day, much of it will sound unsavoury, but now the inquiry will reveal it all" 

Tejpal also said that the allegation by the journalist that he told her the best way to keep her job was by not resisting his advances, was a "half-truth". "This is one of the half-truths she's voiced. Nothing of this, as she states, was said or intended," he said.

"My lawyers know I am being framed, and are also aware of the political forces driving much of it now," he added.

Full text of the email sent by Tarun Tejpal to the young journalist on November 19, 2013. The journalist's response of November 21 follows this email:

***

Dear XXX,

This is the hardest thing I will ever do in my life. You are a young woman I have been very proud of, as a colleague’s daughter, and then as a colleague in my own office. I have watched you grow and mature professionally into a journalist of great integrity and promise.

It wrenches me beyond describing, therefore, to accept that I have violated that long-standing relationship of trust and respect between us and I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013, despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.

I understand the extreme distress you have been feeling and if regret could turn time back, the force of mine would surely place us all back in a space and time before this terrible lapse.

I know you feel I used my position as Editor, Tehelka to force my attention on you, and I acknowledge that I did at one point say to your contention that I was your boss, “That makes it simpler,” but I do want to put on record that the moment those words escaped my lips, I retracted them saying “I withdraw that straight away – no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that”. I want to reiterate that again today: despite my colossal lapse, working and succeeding in Tehelka will never be predicated on anyone acquiescing to anything untoward. It never has and never will. Having said that though, I acknowledge that there is an inherent disbalance of power in my position as editor-in-chief and you as an employee of Tehelka and there is absolutely no ground or circumstance in which I should have violated the propriety and trust embedded in that relationship.

Tehelka has a proud legacy and body of work, to which you yourself and legions of other journalists have contributed. As the founder and editor-in-chief, I have helmed and nurtured this proud institution, and I cannot imagine what insanity drove me to compromise these long, proud years of trust and public work.

There are many, many reasons, therefore, why I am smothered with regret. But I want you to know that foremost among them is the fact that I have hurt you and broken your trust in me, and that of many others around me. I have often spoken for the absolute rights and freedoms of women, and it shames me beyond words, to find myself located in this awful context. I would say it was a moment of insanity, except that would mean evading responsibility for it, and that I will not do. I hold myself, first and last, accountable.

I know Shoma has urged you not to leave Tehelka, and even as I acknowledge that I have lost the right to say this to you, I would urge you not to leave either. At the very least, I would like to assure you that the space to do your work proudly and freely, without worrying about fear or favour, will always be available to you here.

For long years, you have known a different man, a man and editor you trusted and were proud to know. In extreme contrition, I would like you to know that but for this unconscionable lapse, that man still exists and holds you in highest regard.

If an apology can heal, please consider this an unconditional one.

Tarun

***

In response to this email, the complainant responded on November 21, in an email to Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury that Tejpal's account of what happened on the 7th and 8th of November differed from hers on the following counts:


1. The use of the words “sexual liaison” is a clear misrepresentation of facts, and an attempt to obfuscate the truth — that he sexually molested me, on two separate occasions and that he violated my bodily integrity and trust.

2. He did not even once, utter the words “I withdraw that straight away – no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that”. I have written this in my response to his ‘private’ email to me as well, which is cc’d to you and my colleagues who have known about him sexually molesting me from the 7th of November.

She went on to also point out:

In conversations with my colleagues you have said that you do not contest the facts of my testimony, which is why you do not see it necessary to constitute an anti sexual harassment cell as per the Vishakha guidelines in this case. However, given that his apology presents an entirely different version from my testimony, i.e. attempts to establish that a “sexual liaison” took place as opposed to him sexually molesting me, I insist once again in the spirit of justice, to constitute an anti sexual harassment cell in accordance with the Vishakha guidelines to investigate this matter. 

She also asked Chaudhury to:

publicly withdraw your statement that I or other Tehelka journalists are “satisfied”, since my colleagues do not know the full extent of what was done to me, and I am deeply hurt that as my mentor, you could suggest in any way that this blatant misrepresentation of facts would be satisfactory to me. 

SHORT TAKES
27 Nov 2013, 10:20:25 PM | Buzz

Appu Esthose Suresh in the Indian Express: Tejpal got Ponty Chadha to fund club for ‘select Indians...great intimacy’:

Officials in Wave Industries, the flagship company of the Chadha Group, said Chadha decided to invest in Prufrock in early 2012 after Tejpal made a business presentation on the concept of an exclusive private club.

Chadha was killed in a shootout in his farmhouse in Delhi in November 2012 but his son Manpreet 'Monty' Chadha decided to honour all business commitments of his father, they said.

Prufrock is owned by Thriving Arts Pvt Ltd, which was set up in June this year. On July 10, the company issued shares to two stakeholders at Rs 10 per share — 72 per cent to Tejpal and 28 per cent to his sister Neena Tejpal.

On August 26, Chadha Hotel's Pvt Ltd invested Rs 2 crore for 11,111 shares issued at Rs 1,800 per share.

"Chadha Group invested in this company after a detailed presentation on the concept of the business. Our investment was from the point of view of profit and exit when it appreciates. We are not involved in the daily operations," a Chadha Group spokesperson told The Indian Express.
 

 

25 Nov 2013, 11:26:21 PM | Buzz

Appu Esthose Suresh in the Indian Express: Tarun Tejpal & Shoma Chaudhury-owned firm organises THiNK Fest, not Tehelka:

Thinkworks is one of the five companies promoted by Tarun Tejpal since 2006. Two of the firms are in hospitality industry. Started in February 2010, a year before the first THiNK Fest, Thinkworks is the most profitable business of the five with a gross revenue of Rs 14.2 crore as on March 31 this year. According to the filings with the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Tarun Tejpal has 80 per cent stake in Think-works, while Neena Tejpal and Suparana Chaudhary have 10 per cent stake each. Suparana Chaudhary is the official name of the managing editor of Tehelka magazine, who is better known by her pen name Shoma Chaudhary.

26 Nov 2013, 08:30:20 PM | Buzz

Shoma Chaudhury's statements:

On National Commission for Women notice

Contrary to media reports, Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury has responded to National Commission for Women. All detailed reports and responses will be put out today

26 November 2013

On Sexual Harassment Enquiry Committee


Since last Thursday, Tehelka has requested several people to be a part of the Sexual Harassment Enquiry Committee in Tehelka, including eminent people like Urvashi Butalia, Inakshi Ganguly, Sharmila Tagore, Justice Leela Seth, Prem Shankar Jha, Uma Chakravarti, Vrinda Grover, and several others. Tehelka has also written to the complainant  journalist asking her to suggest some names for the committee but   she hasn’t replied. However, despite all our efforts, there is a strong sense amongst lawyers and activists that, given that a criminal enquiry by Goa police was started on Thursday itself and a criminal case has now been filed, an Enquiry Committee would not have any legal standing. Hence, many of the people Tehelka has approached wish to recuse themselves from the committee. We are trying to persuade them to reconsider and remain committed to having such a committee to investigate this matter.

26 November 2013

27 Nov 2013, 01:33:20 PM | Buzz

Shoma Chaudhury's statement:

I strongly reject the allegations in the media that I am involved in any manner with any slander, intimidation or character assassination of the complainant journalist. This is a malicious campaign that has no basis in truth.

 

26 Nov 2013, 10:46:59 AM | Buzz

Avishek G Dastidar in the Indian Express: Worried about brand, will exit Tehelka: K D Singh:

"We had around 65 per cent stake in Tehelka to begin with. We are going to exit the venture completely. In the past one year, we have divested around 20 per cent of it."

Stating that he was a "mere investor", Singh said he was "worried about what has happened to Brand Tehelka", and would decide on the "exit strategy" in the next few days. "I have nothing to do with the affairs or management of Tehelka. I do not even know where its office is," he said.

Describing Tehelka founder and editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal as a "personal friend", Singh said he had not spoken to him yet. "I can say that's not the Tarun I know, and Tehelka could have handled this matter better."

Tejpal's family owns a 19 per cent stake in the magazine.

 

25 Nov 2013, 10:01:59 AM | Sundeep Dougal

Samyabrata Ray Goswami, writing in the Telegraph, quotes a source in Goa police who did not want to be named because the investigation is ongoing and he is not authorised to speak to the media:

“On November 7, the journalist and Tejpal are seen going into the elevator at 12.15am and coming out at 12.30am. The girl rushes out and then Tejpal follows her out”

Goswami also quotes the same source as saying:

“On November 8, at 8.53pm, Tejpal is seen taking the girl into the elevator, holding her hand. They come out after seven minutes. This time, too, the girl rushes out with Tejpal following. She walks fast up to a woman and talks to her for 10 minutes while Tejpal walks past. She then moves away too.”

Read the full report at the Telegraph: Footage cloud on Tejpal text - 15-minute gap challenges ‘fleeting’ claim

22 Nov 2013, 10:53:20 PM | Sundeep Dougal

Earlier in the day, TOI reported: Rape case filed against Tarun Tejpal, cops reach his residence

Deputy inspector general (DIG) of police OP Mishra said that the police had obtained CCTV footage of (the lobby and elevator) of the starred hotel where Tehelka's ThinkFest was held ten days ago at Bambolim, 5km from here. The police examined the footage last night. Sources in the police said that there is a prima facie case against Tejpal. Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar had said earlier that a prima facie case had been made out.

23 Nov 2013, 03:09:17 AM | Sundeep Dougal

In Economic Times, Sruthijith KK asks: Will Tehelka's real owners please stand up?, which, among other things also has an interesting piece of news:

Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, one of the minority shareholders, told ET that the turn of events at the company was very unfortunate. But Jethmalani, one of India's foremost criminal lawyers, who has appeared for Tejpal in court in the past, said he would not be at hand to defend the Tehelka editor in this case. "After the December gangrape case in Delhi, I have resolved that I will never appear in such a case. For me to appear against the girl in court in a case like this gives me the shivers."

23 Nov 2013, 03:14:29 AM | Sundeep Dougal

The Hindu has a copy of the FIR:  Cognisable offence committed by Tejpal

...prima facie it appears that a cognisable offence has been committed by Shri Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka.com during the Think Fest held at Hotel Grand Hyatt, Hambolim, Goa, where the said accused allegedly committed the offence of sexual harassment and rape on a female journalist of Tehelka named [name withheld]. Hence, I hereby lodge my complaint on behalf of the state against Tarun Tejpal, Editor-in-Chief of Tehelka.com u/s 354-A, 376, 376 (2) IPC [outraging the modesty of a woman, rape, rape of a woman in the custody of the perpetrator].

23 Nov 2013, 02:15:17 AM | Sundeep Dougal

Anahita Mukherji in TOI: 'Tejpal's email apology strong documentary evidence'

"He does not seem to have understood the gravity of the offence," says feminist and legal expert Flavia Agnes. "India's elite lauded the amendments to the IPC, widening the definition of rape, little realizing that they did not apply simply to lower-class men, but could affect them too. While there has been much clamour for the death penalty in cases of rape involving the lower classes, would the elite now like to apply this to themselves?" asks Agnes.

...But why would Tejpal admit to sexual assault? "He may have been caught on the wrong foot, and may not have had time to come out with a planned strategy for dealing with the incident," says Kalpana Vishwanath of Jagori, an organization working on gender and space in Delhi. "Tejpal may have realized that he was cornered from all angles," says Vibhuti Patel, feminist and head of the economics department at SNDT University.

Asha Bajpai, dean at the Centre for Law and Society at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, points to another possible explanation. India's new law on sexual harassment at the workplace has a highly controversial clause on conciliation, allowing for a settlement between an "aggrieved woman" and the "respondent". Bajpai says Tejpal may have been advised of this clause before he gave in a written apology. But the Goa police have now booked Tejpal for rape, an offence for which there is no conciliation.
 

23 Nov 2013, 01:16:14 AM | Sundeep Dougal

While our email to Mr Tejpal asking for his reaction remains unanswered, he has responded to the Indian Express: In email to victim, Tejpal admitted to attempted 'sexual liaison'

Asked to explain this email, Tejpal told The Indian Express tonight: "These initial internal letters were demanded and done by Shoma as she insisted on closing a contentious issue through the sought apology. My version from first moment was totally different -- and Shoma has admitted as much today."

22 Nov 2013, 10:43:59 PM | Sundeep Dougal

Earlier in the day, TOI reported: Shoma Choudhury stalling Tejpal probe, say Goa CM, DGP

"Police have informed me they have sent an email to the managing editor yesterday (Thursday) at 5:18 pm. They have confirmation it has been received, asking her to cooperate in a crime which is heinous in nature," Parrikar said, echoing the views of state Director General of Police (DGP) Kishen Kumar, who too said Choudhury was un-cooperative.

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