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'Inexpressibly Dismayed'

'Despite my immediate and assertive actions in support of you, I stand wrongly defaced and accused of having abandoned the public values I uphold in my work. This leaves me inexpressibly dismayed.'

'Inexpressibly Dismayed'
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury had earlier said that she had forced Tarun Tejpal to issue an "unconditional apology" to the young journalist who had accused him of sexually assaulted her. Tejpal too said that all his "actions so far were out of an attempt to preserve the girl's dignity and on Shoma's adamantine feminist-principle insistence that [he] keep correct form by apologising."

Today, however, Moushumi Das Gupta reported in The Hindustan Times : Backstabbing ‘lawyer friend’ behind unconditional apology idea: Shoma

“Shoma told us that after the victim first lodged the complaint she (Shoma) consulted this lawyer who she considered a friend and who had advised the magazine previously on a number of issues. It was on the advice of the lawyer that Chaudhary said she had demanded an apology from Tarun,” said a journalist present in the meeting who did not want to be identified. 

Chaudhary told her colleagues that she was “backstabbed” by this particular friend who has now switched sides.

However, at 8:13:35 pm today, Shoma Chaudhury sent the following response to the complainant journalist, accepting her resignation, which was also later made public:

***

Dear XXXXX, 

It is unfortunate that your resignation from Tehelka comes under these circumstances. As you have said, we have stood together for women’s rights, and today for me to be seen in opposition to you is a real travesty by any account. 

In the absence of an existing official grievance redressal mechanism in office, along Vishaka guidelines, when this crisis hit, I acted on instant outrage and solidarity for you as a woman and a colleague. My responses may not have reflected the correct formal procedures but the intent cannot be doubted. 

To feel a sense closure, you had asked for a written apology from Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal; 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. 

There were only two days to act on your complaint before the story broke in the press. I believe the taken actions strongly count as my standing by you. Post this, things have been misconstrued and have snowballed exponentially in the media, based on half-facts and selective leaks. 

In your initial conversations with me, you had wanted redressal from within the institution in a way that would acknowledge the gravity of your complaint, yet protect your privacy. I proceeded with this in mind. You, above all others, in the clamour surrounding us today, know the truth of my actions in support of you.

You have accused me of many things in your resignation letter. This is not the time to enter into a detailed point-counter point 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 three journalist confidantes. This cannot be read as an attempt to hush-up things. 

On 19 November, I called you to check whether you 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. You said you needed a week to think it through and asked me to hold-off the acknowledgment till then. This is the only reason an acknowledgement of the apology was not sent to the staff and bureau immediately. 

Regarding your assertion in your resignation letter that I am only “now” attempting to establish that Tarun has “another version”: 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. 

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 had no reason to disbelieve this, as you had already spoken to journalists about your sexual assault, and both they, 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. 

In so far as the issues you have raised over Tarun’s recusal letter, and my use of the words “untoward incident” or “satisfied”, I have already been on national television both accepting and explaining how and why the vocabulary of this was inadequate. You also have emails from me, copied to the three journalists, on Thursday, 20 November, explaining this. 

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. 

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. The suggestion that I am involved in any attempt to intimidate you or your family is absolutely untrue and uncalled for. The same goes for your claims that I have indulged in character assassination or slander against you. 

From the moment I received your complaint, my actions, were driven by outrage on your behalf, urgent concern for you, and a desire to assuage your sense of injury. In this, contrary to assertions in the media, I was, in fact, demonstrably driven to honour your word above any other. To this extent, I, rightly or wrongly, did not even cross-check your account with the other journalists you had confided in, until you had been given the official apology you sought. 

At the end, you have accused not just Mr.Tejpal, but Tehelka of failing “women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively”. This accusation unduly extrapolates the events of the last week with an institution whose journalists, staff and body of work have nothing to do with it. 

Today, despite my immediate and assertive actions in support of you, I stand wrongly defaced and accused of having abandoned the public values I uphold in my work. This leaves me inexpressibly dismayed. 

I wish you well in the future. 

Shoma

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