Tehelka Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury today rejected journalist's allegation of a cover up in the sexual assault case against Tarun Tejpal, saying there was no attempt to hush up the incident or intimidate her and family members.
Citing her resignation as unfortunate, Chaudhury in her letter to the woman journalist said, "My responses may not have reflected the correct formal procedures but the intent cannot be doubted. You had asked for a written apology from Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal and an acknowledgement of this apology to be sent to office and the setting up of an anti-sexual harassment cell in Tehelka."
"Within one day of your complaint, you had the written apology. Tarun stepped down the next day. After this, the process of setting up the anti-sexual harassment committee was begun. I asked you to suggest names as well. You are yet to give names of your nominees," Chaudhury said in her letter.
While accepting that there was no official grievance redressal mechanism in office, along Vishaka guidelines, she responded that she acted on instant outrage and solidarity for her as a woman and a colleague.
She further wrote that she got only two days to act on the complaint before the story broke in the press.
"I believe the taken actions strongly count as my standing by you," she said.
However, she noted that post this, things have been misconstrued and have snowballed exponentially in the media, based on half-facts and selective leaks.
She further alleged that victim in her initial conversations with her had wanted redressal from within the institution in a way that would acknowledge the gravity of the complaint, yet protect her privacy and that she proceeded with this in mind.
"You have accused me of many things in your resignation letter. This is not the time to enter into a detailed point-counterpoint exercise with you. There are, however, a few things that must be set straight, particularly given that I am being publicly accused of a 'cover-up'.
"Firstly, the written apology was forwarded to your journalist confidantes. This cannot be read as an attempt to hush-up things. On 19 November, I called you to check whether an acknowledgement of Tarun’s apology should now be sent to the Tehelka staff. I also strongly urged you to continue working in Tehelka, if you wanted to," Chaudhury wrote in her letter.
Regarding the journalist's assertion in her resignation letter that Chaudhury was only "now" attempting to establish that Tarun has "another version", she said, "this is factually untrue."
"It was recorded in my first email that he said he had ‘misread the situation’. This other version is also on record on 19 November in the personal email from Tarun to you, which you copied to the three journalists and me in your reply. Subsequently, this version was also discussed on the phone between you and me," she said.
She further said that questions have been asked about why I did not go to the police.
"In our conversation, you had mentioned that you had considered this option but did not want to go that route. I thought I should respect that...And you, could have gone to the police in the ten days that transpired before you brought your complaint to me. Once the enquiry committee took the matter into its hands, its recommendations would have been followed and the course of law would have taken over," she said.
As for the issued raised over Tarun's recusal letter, and my use of the words "untoward incident" or "satisfied", Chaudhury further stated that she has been both accepting and explaining how and why the vocabulary of this was inadequate on national television.
"I accept that you may have found expressions I used, verbal or written, inappropriate. I am sorry about this, and only say that notwithstanding the mildness perceived in my language, I took strong steps to ensure that there could be no possible silencing of the issue," she said.
"Regarding your objections to the wording of Tarun’s written apology, you received this email on Tuesday afternoon, 19 November. You mailed wanting phrases changed on 21 November, after the press storm triggered by the leak. By then, events were too fast-paced, to address your concerns. After Wednesday night, 20 November, we haven’t spoken or communicated in any way, other than through emails," she added.
However, she clarifed that the suggestion that she is involved in any attempt to intimidate her or her family is absolutely untrue and uncalled for.