Who really concealed the Tehelka rape case?

Percentage of time devoted to rural news on TV

This has been bothering me for a while now. It is an extension of one of the points in the popcorn gallery effect is alive and well. Witness crime, do nothing to prevent, deter, get justice, and then talk about how you saw what was going on and how it was wrong.

Not knowing the details of who’s who in Tehelka, I did some digging around (and I apologize to the person who provided me info if this gets them in trouble), but one of the three people she contacted for help was her immediate senior – the person she reports to. Or rather reported to. This person knew of the rape from when it happened, to when victim contacted Shoma, to criticism of Shoma and Tejpal’s recusal and eventually, he was among those who criticized Shoma for concealing the rape and now he has quit over how the rape was concealed.

[Tweet “The girl contacted her senior, who did not take action or escalate #TehelkaRapeCase”]

So this has got to trigger my bullshit meter.

According to the information I got, this person has criticized the way Shoma Chaudhury has dealt with the situation in his resignation letter. He has been constantly negotiating on behalf of the victim with Tehelka management since the victim wrote her first letter on 18 Nov (The two incidents happened on the 7th and 8th). While Chaudhury is being rightly criticized for her lousy handling of the matter, how does an immediate superior who gets a report of sexual harassment – this key witness – and does nothing about it get a free pass? For whatever duration Shoma knew, he knew a full 10 days more with time to think without any media pressure and so on. What is his responsibility in this situation? Does a simple resignation absolve him of failing to protect the victim?

Inspite of being informed by the victim of the grave crime that took place on 7th and 8th Nov, he did not seem it fit to inform the police or the management. For 10 days, he hid the matter from the management until the victim wrote a formal mail to the managing editor informing her of the travesty. Question is why didn’t he, the immediate boss of the victim, inform the Tehelka management? Why did he not inform Shoma Chaudhury when the incident was first reported to him by the victim on the first night itself? If he had informed Chaudhury, may be the second attempt by Tejpal would have never taken place. But he never did it. He let it happen again.

[Tweet “Could the 2nd instance of sexual harassment have been prevented if her senior acted? #TehelkaRapeCase”]

It is not just the victim’s immediate boss, another prime witness who is also the photo editor of Tehelka kept his mouth shut for 10 days. It also turns out that this gentleman is the best friend of the victim’s boy friend. While it is shocking that the victim’s immediate boss will refuse to inform the management of such a grave crime, why on earth will the victim’s boyfriend’s friend keep his mouth shut? Also as someone who hold such a senior position as photo editor, wasn’t it his moral and professional duty to inform the Tehelka management about the incident?

Role of these two men in the Tehelka Rape case is shocking. Instead bringing quick justice to their colleague, they prefer to keep their mouth shut and let a crime go unreported. Much more grave is their decision not to speak out when they were informed the fist night of the incidence. Perhaps that’s why in her resignation today, the victim pointed out how the institution of Tehelka has failed her. Not only Shoma Chaudhury but also her own immediate boss and her colleagues let her suffer for 10 days until she found guts to write to her managing editor.

And then he acted as mediator between the victim and the Tehelka management. This bothers me, because like I pointed out, the victim has handled this very skilfully and a vengeful part of me completely appreciates the securing of the admission of the crime and absense of dispute over the explicit details of what happened. At the same time, apart from Tejpal, this action has a lot of other casualties – the employees of Tehelka, particularly the female employees, who I am sad to say are being trolled by many who claim to support the victim, but are asking female reporters crude questions of the variety “how many fingers did tejpal give you”.

[Tweet “Colleagues she confided in did not protect her or raise alarm even after 2nd time #TehelkaRapeCase”]

While action against Tejpal was important and crucial and it had to happen, the damage to the publication and possibly to the livelihoods of those employed in it was greatly magnified by the delay in the victim getting an appropriate response from the organization. So I am really unable to understand how these 3 people who not only failed to act to prevent the second instance of sexual harassment due to their silence the first time, who let a grave wrong remain hidden for 10 days get the sanctimonious title of “witness” when the girl’s letter itself is clear that even Tejpal’s daughter confronted him angrily on the victim’s behalf, but no mention of these three doing a single thing to help her. There is not even any indication that they did a single thing to prevent a third incident if it were to happen after they came to know of the second one.

In my view, these three should also be investigated for failing to prevent repeated harassment of the girl – particularly the senior, whose job it was to do so. Regardless of whether they continue with Tehelka or have now resigned to hide their role.

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