Prominent Indian Magazine Editor Accused of Sexual Assault
GOA, India – The Goa government has ordered a preliminary inquiry into allegations that Tarun Tejpal, the founder of New Delhi-based Tehelka magazine, sexually assaulted a young female journalist on his staff.
The alleged attack is said to have taken place in Goa two weeks ago when the magazine was organizing its annual THINK event, which was attended by a gamut of personalities, including Robert De Niro and Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, among others.
"We have ordered a preliminary inquiry. If the allegations are found to be true, the police will register a case," Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told leading news channel NDTV.
Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tiwari -- who is in Goa to attend the inauguration of the International Film Festival of India and the National Film Development Corporation's Film Bazaar -- also told reporters that "the incident should be investigated so that the facts are ascertained."
The woman journalist has alleged that she was assaulted by Tejpal twice at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Bambolim, Goa, where the Tehelka team was staying for the THINK event. Until a formal complaint is filed, Goa police have asked the Grand Hyatt to preserve its security camera footage so that it can be examined.
"A bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for," Tejpal wrote in an email sent to Tehelka's managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury, adding that he was stepping down from his position for six months as "atonement."
Chaudhury, who moderated the session with De Niro at THINK, shared the email with Tehelka staffers stating, "This may come as a rude surprise to many of you. … There has been an untoward incident, and though he has extended an unconditional apology to the colleague involved, Tarun will be recusing himself as the editor of Tehelka for the next six months."
When asked by reporters if Tejpal had responded correctly to the allegations, Chaudhury was quoted as saying, "Give me time to do the correct thing, under pressure I will falter. Give me the time to prioritize this."
The news has sparked an uproar from women's rights groups who have criticized his response and demanded that his resignation was not enough. Reports also indicate that the woman who made the accusations was also "deeply disappointed" with the response.
"The act happened continuously over a period of time … despite the girl pleading that she is almost the age of [Tejpal's] daughter. … She pleaded, 'Please don't do this' … her no was not accepted. … It happened once and it happened the next day," a confidante of the young journalist told NDTV. She also added that the journalist was a friend of Tejpal's daughter.
The incident is ironic given Tehelka (which means 'storm' in Hindi) is known for its investigative reporting, focusing on everything from corruption scandals to women's issues. Tehelka first launched as an online news portal in 2000 and made headlines for its investigative stories on match fixing scams in cricket to corruption in defense deals. Tehelka was launched as a print magazine in 2007, in which year The Guardian newspaper named Tejpal among the 20 who constitute India's new elite. In 2010, Newsweek named Chaudhury as one of its "150 women who shake the world."