The Goa government on Thursday ordered a preliminary probe into allegations of sexual assault levelled by a young woman journalist against Tehelka founder-editor Tarun Tejpal, amid all-round condemnation of the incident and Tejpal’s decision to step down for six months as “atonement” for his “misconduct”.
The National Commission for Women asked the woman to immediately register a formal complaint with the police. Women’s groups and the Editors Guild of India demanded strict action, saying personal atonement and recusal was not enough.
The BJP, citing the victim’s email to the weekly magazine’s managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, said it was a clear case of rape. Senior party leader Arun Jaitley also questioned the silence of top Congress leaders on the issue.
The incident took place during a literary festival in Goa organised by Tehelka earlier this month. Following media reports, chief minister Manohar Parrikar met the police brass in Panaji and later told reporters, “It has been found that there is substance in the complaint, in what the girl has said. Probably, the incident took place in the lift.” The Goa Police plan to ask Tehelka to provide the victim’s email.
Faced with a volley of questions on why Tehelka allegedly sought to hush up such a serious matter, Chaudhury said, “I want to address the issues that have been raised, please give me a chance to do it in a decent way. But I do need time to act correctly on it.”
She said that according to her understanding of the matter, the victim wanted an apology from Tejpal, which was tendered, and he had even stepped down from his post for six months. She also said they were in the process of setting up a three-member committee to go into the incident.
Chaudhury had earlier told The Indian Express that the victim, as well as other Tehelka employees, was “satisfied with the action taken”.
This was, however, contradicted by the victim, according to NDTV, which quoted her as saying she was “deeply disappointed” with Tehelka’s response since only Tejpal’s apology was circulated among the staff and not the trauma she had undergone.
The BJP said a criminal offence was not a matter of a private treaty between Tejpal and Chaudhury. “Why was the offence not allowed to be reported forthwith? Were any pressures brought on the victim not to lodge a complaint?” asked Jaitley.
He also took a dig at Union ministers P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari for their silence: “Just because the assailant (Tejpal) has connections in the Congress, the nation is deprived of the sage advice, caustic comments and exaggerated tweets of these ministers.”
Condemning the crime, Congress women’s wing chief Shobha Oza said, “There should be zero tolerance for atrocities on women. No one is above the law; the guilty should be punished.”