Journalist Tarun Tejpal's stepping aside as editor-in-chief of the weekly Tehelka magazine is one headline that has shocked a set of people used to scandals: journalists.
Tejpal wrote to Shoma Chaudhury, Tehelka’s managing editor, admitting "misconduct" which he said he must atone for by 'offering' to stop working for six months.
“A bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident…” wrote Tejpal in the email to Chaudhury.
“I feel atonement cannot be just words… I am therefore offering to recuse myself from the editorship of Tehelka… for the next six months.”
Tejpal's email spread across social media, where many journalists expressed outrage at the tone of his "atonement" email. Some alleged that he had been let off so easily and was going on a “six-month holiday.”
Links to an email allegedly written by the woman journalist Tejpal is alleged to have harassed soon started being shared on Facebook and Twitter. Hindustan Times cannot confirm the veracity of this email, which was allegedly addressed to Chaudhury and accuses Tejpal of sexual harassment during Tehelka's THiNK Festival in Goa held early in November.
The tweets were so numerous that by Wednesday midnight #Tejpal, Tarun Tejpal, #Tehelka, NCW and Goa were trending on Twitter.
Many journalists took to Twitter to express their anger and shock. Sagarika Ghose, the deputy editor at CNN-IBN, tweeted "Deeply shocked, saddened, horrified at what happened at Tehelka. Tarun's been a friend for years, suddenly seems like a stranger.. why, Tarun?"
Time for all editors to introspect..how many women journalists endured assaults, kept their mouths shut for fear..need to break omerta code— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) November 21, 2013
Appreciating the support that poured in through Twitter, Sachin Kalbag, Executive Editor at Mid Day, tweeted "Heartening to see a wave of support for the Tehelka journalist who was sexually assaulted by her editor. Hope she complains."
NDTV's editorial director, Sonia Singh, tweeted "The Tehelka woman journalist who has been sexually assaulted needs all r support. We cant be hypocrites about this,thr must be strong action" (sic)
Jonathan Shainin, news editor at The New Yorker, also tweeted "Speculating about what the woman assaulted by Tejpal should have done, and when, is nothing but very ugly concern trolling. Don't do it."
Here are some more tweets from the journalism fraternity:
Siddharth Varadarajan, former editor at The Hindu
It is meaningless for Tarun Tejpal to "recuse" himself as editor. Sexual harassment at Tehelka has to be dealt with according to law.— Siddharth (@svaradarajan) November 20, 2013
Rasheed Kidwai, associate editor at The Telegraph
Tahelka much gaya! Sad to read hear such unfortunate events.law must take its course— rasheed kidwai (@rasheedkidwai) November 20, 2013
Rukmini S, The Hindu journalist
The victim's friends have reached out to several including me to ask that her emails not be made public. Please do right by her.— Rukmini S (@rukmini_shrini) November 21, 2013
Gaurav Kalra, Sports Editor at CNN-IBN
Following demands of action by women groups Kavita Krishnan, secretary of the All India Progressive Women's Association, tweeted "Why 'penance' from Tehelka's Tarun Tejpal?! Instead why not a sexual harassment com acc Vishakha, proper enquiry, appropriate punishment?"
"Do Tehelka & other media think they aren't workplaces? Why isn't Vishakha, Sexual Harassment law followed there?! Why this bosh re penance?" she added. (sic)
Journalists weren't the only ones who tweeted about the incident. Lyricist and music composer Javed Akhtar also tweeted about the incident.
It is a shame that some one with such impeccable values has committed such an act but unlike some he has the guts to accept and repent— Javed Akhtar (@Javedakhtarjadu) November 21, 2013
However, his tweet was widely criticised for supporting Tejpal.
Read Javed Akhtar's nauseating defence of Tarun Tejpal and burn his poetry.— Rahul Pandita (@rahulpandita) November 21, 2013
Amazing and sad that @Javedakhtarjadu reminds us of T Tejpal's impeccable credentials at this moment. It was time to seek justice for d girl— S Irfan Habib (@irfhabib) November 21, 2013
Here are some other prominent names who tweeted about the incident:
Sonia Faleiro, Writer
State of women's rights in India: Top editor sexually assaults colleague, bans internal investigation, takes six month vacation. #Tehelka— Sonia Faleiro (@soniafaleiro) November 20, 2013
Tehelka should get a professional apology email writer.— Sonia Faleiro (@soniafaleiro) November 20, 2013
Kiran Bedi, Former Cop
(Tehelka editor's Tehelka) Admits his crime of sexual assault was product of"bad lapse of judgement" (Or was it belief in immunity)?— Kiran Bedi (@thekiranbedi) November 21, 2013
Karuna Nundy, Supreme Court Lawyer
Nobody can be a judge on his own cause. Why does Tehelka not have a Sexual Harassment Committee as the law requires.— Karuna Nundy (@karunanundy) November 20, 2013
This courageous journalist's privacy must be respected. She's stood up to a system, it's up to her to choose the battles she fights.— Karuna Nundy (@karunanundy) November 21, 2013
Nilanjana Roy, Author
The speed at which concern for #Tejpal victim overtaken by: a) leaks from victim's email b) rightwing glee. Glad to be away from Twitter.— Nilanjana Roy (@nilanjanaroy) November 20, 2013
Raju Narisetti, senior vice president, strategy at NewsCorp