Shoma Chaudhary’s letter of acceptance of #TehelkaRapeCase victim’s resignation
From: Shoma Chaudhury <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 27 November 2013 8:13:35 pm IST
Cc: Editors <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Resignation with immediate effect
It is unfortunate that your resignation from Tehelka comes under these circumstances. As you have said, we have stood together for women’s rights, and today for me to be seen in opposition to you is a real travesty by any account.
In the absence of an existing official grievance redressal mechanism in office, along Vishaka guidelines, when this crisis hit, I acted on instant outrage and solidarity for you as a woman and a colleague. My responses may not have reflected the correct formal procedures but the intent cannot be doubted.
To feel a sense closure, you had asked for a written apology from Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal; an acknowledgement of this apology to be sent to office; and the setting up of an anti-sexual harassment cell in Tehelka.
Within one day of your complaint, you had the written apology. Tarun stepped down the next day. After this, the process of setting up the anti-sexual harassment committee was begun. I asked you to suggest names as well. You are yet to give names of your nominees.
There were only two days to act on your complaint before the story broke in the press. I believe the taken actions strongly count as my standing by you. Post this, things have been misconstrued and have snowballed exponentially in the media, based on half-facts and selective leaks.
In your initial conversations with me, you had wanted redressal from within the institution in a way that would acknowledge the gravity of your complaint, yet protect your privacy. I proceeded with this in mind. You, above all others, in the clamour surrounding us today, know the truth of my actions in support of you.
You have accused me of many things in your resignation letter. This is not the time to enter into a detailed point-counter point exercise with you. There are, however, a few things that must be set straight, particularly given that I am being publicly accused of a ‘cover-up.’
Firstly, the written apology was forwarded to your three journalist confidantes. This cannot be read as an attempt to hush-up things.
On 19 November, I called you to check whether you an acknowledgement of Tarun’s apology should now be sent to the Tehelka staff. I also strongly urged you to continue working in Tehelka, if you wanted to. You said you needed a week to think it through and asked me to hold-off the acknowledgment till then. This is the only reason an acknowledgement of the apology was not sent to the staff and bureau immediately.
Regarding your assertion in your resignation letter that I am only “now” attempting to establish that Tarun has “another version”: this is factually untrue. It was recorded in my first email that he said he had ‘misread the situation’. This ‘other version’ is also on record on 19 November in the personal email from Tarun to you, which you copied to the three journalists and me in your reply. Subsequently, this version was also discussed on the phone between you and me.
Questions have been asked about why I did not go to the police. In our conversation, you had mentioned that you had considered this option but did not want to go that route. I thought I should respect that and had no reason to disbelieve this, as you had already spoken to journalists about your sexual assault, and both they, and you, could have gone to the police in the ten days that transpired before you brought your complaint to me. Once the enquiry committee took the matter into its hands, its recommendations would have been followed and the course of law would have taken over.
In so far as the issues you have raised over Tarun’s recusal letter, and my use of the words “untoward incident” or “satisfied”, I have already been on national television both accepting and explaining how and why the vocabulary of this was inadequate. You also have emails from me, copied to the three journalists, on Thursday, 20 November, explaining this.
I accept that you may have found expressions I used, verbal or written, inappropriate. I am sorry about this, and only say that notwithstanding the mildness perceived in my language, I took strong steps to ensure that there could be no possible silencing of the issue.
Regarding your objections to the wording of Tarun’s written apology, you received this email on Tuesday afternoon, 19 November. You mailed wanting phrases changed on 21 November, after the press storm triggered by the leak. By then, events were too fast-paced, to address your concerns.
After Wednesday night, 20 November, we haven’t spoken or communicated in any way, other than through emails. The suggestion that I am involved in any attempt to intimidate you or your family is absolutely untrue and uncalled for. The same goes for your claims that I have indulged in character assassination or slander against you.
From the moment I received your complaint, my actions, were driven by outrage on your behalf, urgent concern for you, and a desire to assuage your sense of injury. In this, contrary to assertions in the media, I was, in fact, demonstrably driven to honour your word above any other. To this extent, I, rightly or wrongly, did not even cross-check your account with the other journalists you had confided in, until you had been given the official apology you sought.
At the end, you have accused not just Mr.Tejpal, but Tehelka of failing “women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively”. This accusation unduly extrapolates the events of the last week with an institution whose journalists, staff and body of work have nothing to do with it.
Today, despite my immediate and assertive actions in support of you, I stand wrongly defaced and accused of having abandoned the public values I uphold in my work. This leaves me inexpressibly dismayed.
I wish you well in the future.
Sent: Monday, November 25, 2013 1:29 PM
To: Shoma Chaudhury
Subject: Resignation with immediate effect
I am resigning from my position as ****** at Tehelka magazine, with immediate effect, because Tehelka’s Editor-in-Chief Tarun Tejpal sexually molested me on two occasions in November this year.
I am deeply traumatized by the lack of support offered by the organization.
In such circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to work for this organization.
At this moment, I would like to present the following facts to support my claim:
1. I was sexually molested by Tarun Tejpal on two ocassions, the 7th and 8th of November 2013 at the annual Think festival in Goa this year. In the emails of apology that followed my complaint to you about Mr Tejpal’s grievous sexual misconduct, he admitted to the fact, and apologized unconditionally.
2. I requested, at the very least, for Mr Tejpal to acknowledge this apology publicly to the staff and bureau of Tehelka. While I did not want this acknowledgement to have graphic details, I asked that the words “sexual misconduct” be included. In a phone conversation with me, you asked that he be recused from doing so because he had already admitted to sexual molestation in his emails, and because we needed to “protect the institution”. In this conversation, I said, “I trust you to do the right thing”.
3. In the public acknowledgement sent to the bureau, Mr Tejpal and you referred to his act of sexual violation as “an untoward incident” — this was not an attempt to “protect the institution” but in fact, an attempt to cover up what had really occurred — the act of sexual molestation, an admission of the facts that Mr Tejpal had “attempted sexual liaison” with me (to quote his email) on two occasions despite my “reluctance to receive such attention”. Further, in conversations with my colleagues, you admitted to them that you did not see the need to set up an anti-sexual harassment cell as per the Vishakha guidelines, because you did not contest my version of what had occurred on the nights of 7th and 8th of November.
4. In your appearances on national news channels, you first attempted to establish that I was “satisfied” with Tehelka’s actions, when only one of my immediate demands from the organization had been met — namely, that Mr Tejpal had unconditionally apologized for sexually molesting me in private emails to you and I. His public acknowledgement of the apology did not include any reference to his grievous sexual misconduct, and you had still failed to set up an anti-sexual harassment cell as per Vishakha guidelines. This could, in no way, have left me “satisfied”. Further, I had responded to both of Mr Tejpal’s emails (cc’d to you and the three colleagues I had confided everything to since the 7th of November) clarifying:
A) that his behaviour could not be described as “sexual liaison”, and that was in fact an act of sexual molestation and a violation of bodily integrity and trust, since it occurred (by his own admission) despite my refusal.
B) A sexual act carried out without consent cannot be justified on any basis.
C) That after Mr Tejpal (by his own admission) had referred to his position of power over me in the organization, he did not withdraw this statement as his emails allege.
You continued to ignore my rebuttals to these emails, while insisting, in public, that I was satisfied.
5. You are now attempting to establish that Mr Tejpal has “another version” of events (as surely, any sexual predator does), and that the “encounter” may have been consensual or non-consensual. Meanwhile, on the night of the 22nd of November, an immediate member of Mr Tejpal’s family went to my mother’s house to ask her the details of my legal counsel, and what I “wanted” as a result of my complaint about being sexually molested by Mr Tejpal. In emails and text messages sent to his friends, read out on national news channels, Mr Tejpal is now claiming that what occurred was a “fleeting, consensual encounter”; and that he wrote his apologies to me because of your “adamantine feminist principles”.
Over the past years, we have collectively defended the rights of women, written about custodial rape, sexual molestation at the workplace, spoken out harshly against the culture of victim blame and the tactical emotional intimidation and character assassination of those who dare to speak out against sexual violence.
At a time when I find myself victim to such a crime, I am shattered to find the Editor in Chief of Tehelka, and you – in your capacity as Managing Editor – resorting to precisely these tactics of intimidation, character assassination and slander.
Given the sequence of events since the 7th of November, it is not just Mr Tejpal who has failed me as an employer — but Tehelka that has failed women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively. Please consider my resignation effective immediately.