The strange case of rapist Tarun Tejpal
It is over two months that Tarun Tejpal has been in jail for raping a woman who did not want to file a police complaint. His chargesheet keeps getting delayed, and so does bail. Since I have taken a lot of interest in how this is unfolding, I decided to follow up and I still think that this case is very, very …. strange.
For one, the victim did not file a complaint. What the victim did, was released a series of emails to the media, who published them without question. Then hopped in BJP’s Social Media team, a parade of panelists where the “Tejpal” side was mostly token and largely booed out of the arena by well organized media. Extremely reasonable skepticism “Why did the victim get into the lift ith someone who raped her on the day before, the second time?” was met by well organized bullying. Apparently, one cannot expect aversion for the rapist or at least some wariness and if the rape victim is fine being with her rapist alone, who are we to comment on that? The image of Aditya Raj Kaul yelling at Shoma Chaudhary and openly insulting her on National media was something you don’t see sane journalists do with the worst criminals. It wasn’t reporting. It was a pure hate attack. Nice suggestion for the country to understand how to understand this case. Point out the outrage. Done.
The full horror of the case was discovered by us as a nation, at which point the Chief Minister of Goa had to take notice and the police machinery swung into action and the case dropped into oblivion as long as Tejpal made no move to get free.
Not having been in the lift with Tejpal and his victim, I am not going to comment on what “really” happened or not.
My issue continues to be with the completely unbalanced response to this case, which now has started looking a design – NOT by the victim, who may indeed turn out to be wronged at the end of the day.
Check out this second series of very low key developments. Tejpal’s bail application was accompanied by a copy of an email the victim had sent his daughter after his daughter visited the victim’s mother. This is the same visit that got a complaint of intimidation. However, the email thanks Tiya Tejpal for visiting the victim’s mother and in fact, even acknowledges Tiya’s concern that the victim may be getting bad advice and says that she needs time to process what has happened (apart from accusing Tejpal of sending emails to her father’s friend claiming that what happened was mutual). The victim actually appreciates Tiya Tejpal for being there for her all through in that email.
The next morning, she calls this same visit intimidation and does a press release asking Tejpal’s family to not contact her further. Something clearly changed between Tiya Tejpal visiting a woman who was a close family friend and who had stayed at Tiya’s place in Bombay and the next morning, when someone who had staunchly supported her even asking after her was labeled intimidation in front of the media.
This email pretty much put paid to the intimidation accusations and went completely unreported by media. Out of the blue, came a new intimidation accusation. From his Investigating Officer, Sunita Sawant this time. The strange part of this is that her reply to Tarun Tejpal’s bail application makes no mention of intimidation. It was apparently simply claimed in court…. and to the real court – the media. Got widely reported – as did Tejpal’s letter of denial. There is no other mention of Tarun Tejpal not cooperating all through. Not even with the media hunting for things to publish about him and finding all kinds of things.
Within a day of Tarun Tejpal’s letter denying intimidation of Investigating Officer Sunita Sawant being released, there was a new accusation. Again intimidation. This time, the victim claimed that Tarun Tejpal’s family was harassing her by sending an email with a photograph of hers. Tejpal has denied. Asked cyber cell to investigate. And so on. The Think Festival website must have got lakhs of hits in the wake of the festival, and the photo was right there on the front page. Probably because no one had realized a rape accusation would happen. It got taken off much later.
Anyone who knows the basics of “stealing” pictures to add to blog or tweets knows that anyone can copy images off the internet. There is no way a recipient of an anonymous email can know who sent it. So anyone could have sent it. Considering that this whole case was built with carefully crafted “press releases” that did not redact victim’s name, so I am a bit skeptical of emails becoming public in this case. Right in time for a new accusation of intimidation.
So basically, a crazy accusation got a crazy response and we are sending the cyber cell investigating how a picture published publicly got circulated to people. Good luck finding that out. More importantly, there were several websites that published her photo. Many of them identifiable people, who can be proven guilty just sitting right here. Madhu Kishwar tweeted out her name. Scroll.in a site created by the founder of Kafila (also some history of hate with Tehelka) published her photo, including the “intimidating” photo that got circulated way after everyone and his cousin into publishing knew that this was a rape victim and thus not ok to reveal. It has been taken down now. BreakfastNewsTV continues to have two of her photos in their coverage of the case. Nice profile shots, no blurring, no blacking out, nothing, which they haven’t even taken down a week after photos got called as intimidation tactics. Identifiable people, organizations. No problem. Anonymous email becomes a new intimidation case against pet villain.
Funny part here is that the article on scroll.in quotes Kavita Krishnan, who had been among the victim’s close “supporters”. There is absolutely no way she could have missed it, since even if Scroll didn’t give her a copy, her followers on Twitter and Facebook would be sure to tell her that an article quoted her and sent her links. That is how social media works, but apparently she too didn’t have an issue with the photo till it was time for a new intimidation complaint, when an anonymous email gets attributed to Tarun Tejpal as soon as he denies an accusation of intimidation, which had come as soon as he had dented the previous accusation of intimidation.
On a side note, Kavita Krishnan also “helped” another victim who claimed to be brutally raped. In that case too, the rape victim’s accusations were leaked to the media instead of filing a police case. Khurshid Anwar committed suicide. Tarun Tejpal is in jail for the last two and half months. Neither of their victims filed the FIRs and both the victim’s accusations on email for one and tape for another got leaked to media. The accused in both cases were left wing intellectuals, both victims were actively engaged in women’s rights – one as a journalist, the other as an activist and right wing social media took up and ran with the accusations with no room for any questions, till suicide for one case, and jail for another.
Khurshid Anwar and Tarun Tejpal may both be guilty – suicide or stepping down to allow fair process is proof of nothing, but the case gets rigged up through public opinion well before it hits the court, and to me this stinks of manipulating the justice system. It may simply be a case of Kavita having more faith in media to get instant results after appearing in panels and seeing the effectiveness. Or it may be someone else dishing out such rubbish advice – to misuse the anonymity granted to rape victims to launch a media war – turning the protection into a weapon.
I am not saying that rape accused must not be socially condemned, but a pattern here of trying a case in media courts alone and no FIR – till TRPs (or crisis) escalate enough for police to take it up – by which point it is judged and all that remains is for the police to present it as reported in the media in a court of law. These two cases so close to each other are rather extreme for a coincidence and yet I can neither imagine what the explanation could be nor can I remember the last time so many commonalities happened in two cases completely unrelated other than happening close together in terms of time. All other cases around this time were very subdued. Whether it was the Supreme Court intern or Dainik Bhaskar employee, or the marathon fight of the ex-STAR TV employee. No interest. So what was so special about these? Can’t imagine any common factor other than the “leftist intellectuals”.
A few other strange things came to my notice. I spoke with someone who is unwilling to be named for reasons I found convincing, but another clear bias is the police wanting a “water tight case”. Notice I am not saying police having a water tight case. I came to know that at least one person interviewed by the police in relation with the case shared what they saw, and her statement was not recorded, because what she described would dilute the case. She had not defended Tarun Tejpal, but her observations would make the accuations … not as they sounded in the email. I don’t want to get into those, simply because this isn’t about the victim or slandering her, but the Goa police cherry picking statements in their “investigation”. So in this I am inclined to believe Tejpal when he says he is unlikely to get a fair hearing in Goa.
Another anomaly I was informed of was another witness being requested to say she saw something she did not see. Both of these are second person accounts, and thus I do not want to get into their details, though I believe that the sources did not have any motive to deliberately give me wrong information. But that again is my belief. The point is that if a housewife can find out so much sitting at home, how is it that our media is not able to go beyond press releases issued by one party in a serious crime and chasing in the direction they point?
And I did one more thing. One I believed is standard journalistic procedure conveniently set aside for this case. I contacted Tiya Tejpal. NOT about Tarun Tejpal, but about actions attributed to her and published in print. I figured if we can print quotes of family members of Delhi Gang Rape and murder accused, then it isn’t unreasonable to give a family member of an accused who has been reported doing and saying things the chance to at least confirm that the reporting is accurate. Basic verification before printing stories, I have heard. Not if the target is Tarun Tejpal, it seems. I only wish someone had shown such dedication on the Radia Tapes.
My communication with Tiya Tejpal I will post separately.