The Case Of The Criminal Who Is Also The Lawyer And The Judge:
The case of sexual harassment of women in media (or otherwise) is not new. Almost always the criminal manages to get away because the women in India do not come out in open about such situations. For Indian women, dignity is more important than justice. So, they stay mum about the incident and let it pass. Either this or the perpetrator threatens them of the consequences if the victim tries to accuse them and the matter is ‘addressed amicably.’
But, the journalist at Tehelka didn’t keep quiet about the attacks on her committed by her boss, Tarun Tejpal, the editor-in-chief of the magazine. She had emailed the managing editor of the magazine, Shoma Choudhary, accusing Tejpal of sexual assault.
In the email, the survivor has clearly stated how he forced himself upon her, not once but twice, in spite of her resisting and repeatedly telling that he was of her father’s age and that his daughter was her best-friend. Yet, he persisted.
What’s appalling is the attitude of Shoma Chaudhary, who instead of helping the survivor and standing up against Tejpal, has been supporting Tejpal.
When questioned by the Indian Express, she said, “I don’t know how this concerns you…I don’t think you can ask me these questions.”
Isn’t it ironic that Tehelka was that very magazine that carried out sting operations in the past to find out the truth or to catch the culprits and was now talking about ‘concerns?’ Double standards because the accused is one of theirs?
In another statement, “It is an internal problem and we are not setting up any enquiry into the matter,” Chaudhary told the Business Standard.”
What do you mean ‘internal matter?’ And why is it that no enquiry has been set up? When a victim has accused the editor-in-chief of your magazine, either you clear his name and prove that he is innocent, or you investigate into the matter and punish the criminal.
The saddest thing about this whole episode is that Shoma Chaudhary seems to be least bothered about providing justice to her female colleague in spite of being a female herself. And her above attitude only makes her an accomplice, passive of course, but an accomplice nevertheless, in the heinous act committed by Tejpal.
And to add salt to the wounds of the survivor, Tejpal has offered to recuse himself from his post ‘for six months to do the penance that lacerates’ him.
Wait a minute?! Recuse? Since when did criminals get the right to be the judge of their actions and pronounce the verdict about what punishment they must undergo? And is that even a punishment? You committed a crime and you are going to a far away land for six months. Dear Tejpal, that is not punishment but that is a holiday that you are taking!
Commit a crime, go on a self-imposed sabbatical to lacerate yourself. You’ve received your punishment. Wow, that’s a sweet bargain!
There are many things that Tehelka needs to do as of now.
1) Create an internal committee to deal with complaints of sexual harassment, which is apparently a legal requirement, but Tehelka doesn’t have one.
2) Fire Tejpal and get that perpetrator out of his self-imposed penance and let the Police lacerate him.
3) See to it that quick justice is served and that no ‘out of the court’ settlement proposed.
4) Set up an example for the whole country.
(Abridged version first published at The Viewspaper)