Under increasing pressure over allegations of sexual assault against Tehelka co-founder Tarun Tejpal, those in the frontline of defending him appear to have changed their stance from an initial admission that “an untoward incident” took place to claims that there was only a “consensual” and “fleeting encounter” between Tejpal and a young woman colleague.
The incident is reported to have taken place in the lift of a Goa hotel during the magazine’s THiNK festival on the evening of November 7 followed by another alleged assault in the hotel lift the next day.
Earlier this week, the young woman wrote an official complaint to Tehelka’s managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, who immediately confronted Tejpal.
The emails sent to the office staff by Chaudhury and widely circulated since strongly suggest that there was a conditional acceptance that Tejpal had done wrong in some way, albeit not described in detail.
While in her email to Chaudhury, the young woman sought an unconditional and public apology and a committee under the Supreme Court mandated Vishakha judgment guidelines, the official emails show that Tejpal agreed to step down from office for six months as ‘penance’.
But a series of interviews given by Chaudhury to TV news channels on Friday marked a shift in the account being put out by those associated with the weekly.
From a tacit admission, the new language offered is that Tejpal had a different version which may contradict that of the young woman. Now, an “untoward incident” that was created by a “misreading” of signals had become a “fleeting” and “consensual” encounter between Tejpal and the young woman.
Chaudhury also made a fresh claim to TV news channels that Tejpal conceded to the young woman’s charges only on Chaudhury’s insistence.
In a message sent to close friends, Tejpal said he agreed to apologise due to Chaudhury’s “adamantine feminist-principle insistence.”
The implication was that he need not have apologised but for Chaudhury’s demand.
Chaudhury has also stated that she will not cooperate with the Goa police till the young woman files a formal complaint.