We, the undersigned, express our deepest dismay at the manner in which the newsmagazine Tehelka has responded to the allegations of sexual harassment against its owner-editor, Tarun Tejpal. Tehelka has clearly chosen to downplay and trivialize an instance of extremely grave sexual assault and misuse of a position of power by Tejpal by calling it an “untoward incident”. Worse, the magazine’s editor chose to call it “an internal matter” but conducted no internal probe in consonance with the Vishakha guidelines against sexual harassment at workplaces.
The pious assertions of ‘atonement’, ‘laceration’ and ‘recusing’ are highly inadequate and dishonest as a response to this serious misconduct. In fact the attempt to paint himself as a martyr by stepping aside for six months has only aggravated Tejpal’s misconduct.
The announcement this evening of a possible enquiry committee to probe Tejpal’s conduct is belated and an afterthought – made only under pressure following the public outrage – whereas an impartial enquiry should have been set up right after the journalist complained to the Managing editor.
But beyond this one event, there are two things that we should note. First, the appalling lack of institutionalized mechanisms to deal with complaints of sexual violence in media houses, where senior editors enjoy great power over the careers of young journalists; and the salacious and unrestrained manner in which the social media has quoted from the complainant’s letter to the magazine’s editor, thereby disclosing her identity, whereas, greater sensitivity needed to be displayed.
We demand that Tarun Tejpal’s misconduct be subjected to independent scrutiny in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines followed by appropriate action. We also demand that media houses must mandatorily set up committees against sexual harassment to make workplaces safer for women employees.
Aliya, Women Connect
Asad Ashraf, Jamia Students Solidarity Forum
Bhasha, Senior Journalist
Bhawna Sharma, Anhad
Juhi Jain, Writer
Kumar Sundaram, Anti Nuke Activist
Madhuresh Kumar, NAPM
Mahtab Alam, Civil Rights Activist
Manan Trivedi, Anhad
Manisha Sethi, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association
Mansi Sharma, Focus on the Global South
Meera Rizvi, Writer
Mohd Aamir Khan, Anhad
Puneet Sharma, Filmmaker
Purwa Bharadwaj, Women’s Rights Activist
Sania Hashmi, Anhad Media
Sanjay Kapoor, Hardnews
Shabnam Hashmi, Anhad
Sheeba Aslam Fehmi, Women’s Rights Activist
Tajally Sheharyar, Jamia Students Solidarity Forum
Tariq Anwar, Jamia Students Solidarity Forum
Tarique Anwar,Daily Bhaskar
Vineet Tiwari, MPPWA
Wilfred D Costa, INSAF
Zakia Soman, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan