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Woman from Ulhasnagar beaten till unconscious to intimidate daughter into withdrawing sexual harassment complaint. Assaulter free, frames family instead.

What happens when you face sexual harassment and you go and register a case with the police as a conscientious citizen who believes that the country's law enforcing system will provide her relief? Here is what happens: your mother is severely beaten up, your brother is implicated in a false case and is arrested and you and your family are threatened with dire consequences if you do not withdraw your case. Crime rules in Ulhasnagar, not far from Mumbai, the financial capital of the country.

[name redacted to protect identity] lives in Ulhasnagar with her two brothers and her mother. When she could no more put up with the sexual harassment by a neighbour; she decided to act. She also decided to follow the law as a good citizen and went and registered a case. Little did she know of the ordeal awaiting her and her family.

No action was taken against the accused; but she started getting pestered to withdraw her case. The pressure mounted when she refused. On 26th April 2014, when she and her brothers were away, the Chairman of the Society where she lives, and his daughter along with four other men, beat her mother severely with bamboo sticks at 7 PM right in the premises of the Society, till she became unconscious. On gaining consciousness, she called her children and advised the son who was nearest, to seek help from police.

That's again being a responsible citizen, right? Unfortunately law operates differently for the likes of her, for the Aam Adami and for those with political clout: she received no help. So, she herself went to the police station to lodge a complaint. She found that the Chairman, Shri Anil Kumar Pandey was already there and she refused to give a statement under duress. Ultimately, [name redacted] and the other brother reached the police station and the formality of filing an FIR was completed by 10 in the night. To add insult to injury, she was to see a counter complaint filed against her and her family.

What happens next? The police detain the brother and implicating him under serious charges, arrest him! The family is threatened with dire consequences if the original complaint is not withdrawn. And those who are terrorizing the hapless family are of course moving about freely.

Is it because Shri Anil Kumar Pandey is a local neta of the NCP? Does the law operate differently when a neta of the party in the ruling alliance is involved? Is this not a loud and clear signal for the public, the Aam Adami, to beware of trying to oppose the high and mighty political masters?

But the girl has decided to fight it out. As a last resort, she has appealed to AAP to try and get her justice. AAP is leading a crusade against corruption at all levels. as a part of the crusade, it is our duty to highlight such incidents. We demand that a proper investigation be conducted in the entire matter and justice be delivered. And we also wish to make an appeal to the Home Minister Shri R R Patil to carry out his moral responsibility of providing a woman with security.

press release from Aam Aadmi Party Maharashtra media cell.

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The 12 volume chargesheet against Tarun Tejpal seems to be a case of piling up enough trees to obfuscate the woods. I have not read the chargesheet and am going by media reports, which is why it took me so much time to ask - I had to be certain. I would be happy to be proved wrong, but these questions need to be asked.

  1. I hear that the CCTV footage video is not attached with the chargesheet. Considering that it is the most accurate neutral record of fact of at least part of the narrative Tarun Tejpal stands accused of, it is unbelievable that it is not provided. We know that the CCTV footage exists. We know that printouts from the footage frames are attached to the chargesheet. So the question begs to be asked. Why not provide the original video and let the scene speak for itself? This is a reasonable expectation, since Tarun Tejpal has consistently asked for the CCTV footage to be made public claiming that it will "vindicate" him. Under such circumstances, the only interpretation I can think of to not provide the video is because it will prove him right or at least dilute the charges against him and thus is not useful in the chargesheet.
  2. Tarun Tejpal's custody has been extended time and again mostly because of fears of intimidation. The intimidation seems to have manifested right on time to attend bail hearings as well, as I have shown in another article. One intimidation was in Tiya making a concerned visit to the victim's mother, which the victim thanked her for, only to call it intimidation on the next morning. Then you had the investigating officer accuse Tarun Tejpal of intimidating her - something that isn't on record before the bail hearing. Tarun Tejpal denied intimidating the Investigating Officer in a letter, only to have a "replacement intimidation" alleged. Anonymous leaks of the victim's identity through publicly available photos (the victim's identity was widely known courtesy emails she herself circulated) were attributed to Tarun Tejpal without any evidence to back it up, while media websites publishing the victim's photos openly are ignored. So, while the cyber crime departments will waste time trying to trace who sent publicly available photos in emails, and Tiya seems to have taken out the first allegation with the email, what remains is the second allegation of intimidation. None of the reports of the mega chargesheet mention the intimidation. Surely if Tarun Tejpal intimidated a police officer, that would be a charge against him? This mysterious accusation doesn't seem to appear anywhere except a verbal allegation in court just in time for bail to be denied. Why was Tarun Tejpal not charged with intimidating a police officer if he did it? If he didn't, what purpose did the accusation serve?

The recent developments give me a nasty feeling that an early prediction made during this case is going to happen. The victim did not file the case. The victim's letters of complaint used the words sexual harassment and demanded an apology for misconduct (which is not really covered by law as far as I know). The media magnified the case, pointed out the rape, the government proceeded as per rape, an investigation aiming to present a watertight case followed and now the case has reached a point where the police don't attach CCTV footage to the chargesheet.

My guess is that if the CCTV footage becomes known, the case collapses. It is a guess, based on the circus playing out. If that happens, the Goa government gets egg on their face, which will not look good before the Lok Sabha elections. So this will be dragged on till after the elections, if possible. Then, the inevitable happens. The case collapses or gets a far less sentence than advertised. BJP tells the girl they did what they could for her. Tells the world they were misled by media. Media turns and points to the girl.

Sum total of the issue is going to be that supposed women's rights supporters will have ended up heavily supporting the exploitation of an alleged sexual harassment victim's trauma for a media-politics circus that took her through the wringer and dropped her back exactly where she was and with questions about her honesty, because after all the hype, anything less than a conviction for rape is going to backfire on her - even if it hadn't been her who hyped it. At that point media will forget that it is they who magnified her word. It won't be media remembering that her demand for an apology was for misconduct.

Politicians will have had just another day at work. Media will move on to its next rescue for TRPs.

The victim will join the many masses who pass through media spotlight and earn channels crores of rupees and fare no better because of it.

This is the neo-patriarchy. Where women become entertainment, are not in control of their own agenda and are told that this attention and everyone else speaking for them and triggering loads of actions with consequences they will face alone when the dust settles.... is respect, support, feminism.

Breaking news being tweeted right now is that Goa police will be filing a 2700 page chargesheet against Tarun Tejpal for sexual assault. For a sense of proportion for those wondering how normal this is, the chargesheet against the Delhi Gang Rape (that gave birth to the law amendment that qualifies Tarun Tejpal as alleged "rapist"), Torture and Murder was 1,000 pages and people had mostly interpreted that unusually large number as symbolizing the gravity of the crime (I am no lawyer, or have an idea of a normal charge sheet. I went by reactions on Twitter.). This chargesheet is almost three times as big as that one (going by number pages alone) against a single "rapist".

As per DNA:

Investigating officer Sunita Sawant has charged Tejpal under sections 354, 354-A (sexual harassment), 341 and 342 (wrongful restrain), 376 (rape), 376(2)(f) and 376 (2)(k) (takes advantage of his official position and commits rape on a woman in his custody).

The 2,684-page charge sheet filed before Chief Judicial Magistrate Anuja Prabhudesai has examined 152 witnesses including the victim, staff of Tehelka magazine and the investigating officer in the case.

The charge sheet mentions that there are enough statements on record to prove that Tejpal has admitted the commission of rape, sexual harassment and outraging the modesty of the victim.

The investigating officer has noted that there are incriminating emails in this regard containing his apology, email letters to the victim regarding rape, sexual harassment, and outraging her modesty which were retrieved at his instance.

I am very fascinated by this phenomenon, since I have been following this very special case since a while now. Will update.

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It is clear that among the things done wrongly in the Tehelka scandal, some are obvious (like DO NOT RAPE), others have been discussed (Like DO NOT COVER UP A RAPE) and still more resulted from media failure in maintaining an objective view. These are largely unique to this case. Well, the rape is not such a unique thing in India, but the rest are unique to this case. I think wrong was done on several levels and I am trying to look at the larger picture in terms of what can be done to prevent these fails in our response to incidences like this.

Regardless of the media fury, custodial rape is not such an unprecedented thing and there is a need to realize that the cause of women does not get helped by insisting on treating someone as guilty on the basis of a word. Just like all crimes need proof, rape too should need proof. The norm for accepting a victim's word is important because rape being an intimate and often private crime, there is a need that suffering not be dismissed out of hand and that the victim receives a fair trial and support on the assumption that she will not lie about such a thing because of prevailing social conditions.

However, if what is a protective measure for the victim becomes a presumption of guilt for the man, we are creating dangerous precedents. In my view, believing the victim and extending all support to her is important. It is equally important that the right of any citizen, men included, to be innocent till proved guilty is respected - particularly by state and media, because their responses have the power to punish with broken reputations and destroyed lives well before the case reaches court.

For those who are looking at this incident as a new awareness of women's rights, I don't agree with you. The awareness may be where the light of media is shining, but I don't even think it is awareness about the victim's rights. People watching media are under the perception that this man is guilty. I will not fool myself that very many have bought into the principle of believing a woman on claims of rape, so I'm not going to imagine that anything has changed. And if it has changed and the masses at large realize that a woman accusing a man of rape will be believed by default to the point his reputation can be in shreds and he is arrested on a non-bailable warrant and sent to police custody for interrogation without the victim even filing a complaint, I don't imagine the resulting conclusions will do any favors to women, particularly in a misogynist society.

There is a difference between a presumption of truth for the victim's claims and the presumption of guilt for the one accused. Not only has the line been crossed repeatedly in the Tarun Tejpal case, there doesn't even seem to be a passing interest in finding out where it could be. In my view, several things were wrong with the response to the victim's accusations by Tehelka/Shoma, the government, the courts. The media court I have talked about so much, I am tired of talking about it.

Firstly, Shoma was not just wrong in refusing a sexual harassment committee in media - however briefly or however much she changed later. She was wrong from the word go, in unilaterally and privately managing the accusations. The sexual harassment committee should have been formed on receiving the letter and the committee should have been the one to decide whether an apology needs to be issued or Tejpal needs to step down or a police case needs to be filed.

In acting unilaterally to address the issue, Shoma not only created a perception of denial of justice, cover up and persecution in the victim, she harmed the interests of Tarun Tejpal by assigning guilt - without which the apology holds no meaning. Tejpal's interests were further harmed by him stepping down suo motto. Without his stepping down being required by either the victim or a committee, it appeared as an admission of guilt on a crime of massive proportions. All this could be avoided if proper procedures were followed or even if there was no sexual harassment committee, a group of seniors acting in a collective decision rather than something Shoma and Tejpal came up with on their own.

This may be something for organizations to take note of, because any kind of apology or punishment may not be a proof of anything, but it definitely creates a perception of guilt. Take for example the cases of sexual harassment in the Supreme Court, Dainik Bhaskar and other ones cropping up in media. While it cannot be denied that the BJP with its considerable power to command media and social media had a special grudge with Tehelka, the outrage has Brinda Karat and Arundhati Roy criticizing as well, who most certainly cannot be considered BJP stooges. So how is it that one case of molestation get so much attention without a case being filed, while other cases are filed and still there hardly seems to be a word of condemnation. Bhatia has not apologized or resigned or any such thing and the complaing against him is one of ongoing sexual abuse and threats to career. Sort of serial Tejpal. So why is there no anger? Because in public perception, it is an accusation that will go to court and so on. In public perception, Tejpal, in stepping down made an admission of guilt.

The Vishakha guidelines are for creating a process around addressing allegations, not only protecting victims. A proper procedure would have protected Tejpal's interest as well if he was innocent as he claims. Yet the guidelines are hardly followed by most organizations including Tehelka, Dainik Bhaskar and the Supreme Court. The Vishakha guidelines are only available in English. A glaring lapse that came to attention that took 15 years to be noticed. Genderlog India has now started a citizen volunteer project to translate the Vishakha guidelines into different languages. Do volunteer your efforts.

It is even more scary when the government is swayed by media hype into an action engineered by it. How many instances of crimes against women when the woman deliberately hasn't filed an FIR get picked up by the government? Why was a special case made out of this? It is not a matter of "high profile". The number of politicians alone who "outrage the modesty" of rape victims with character assassinations in media runs by the dozen every year. The number of blogs detailing sexual abuse vast and there is no action taken by the state. Police themselves convince victims to not file cases. And now apparently the state needs to file a case even when victim didn't want. The lack of uniformity of the response shows how the state is run by media. The Chief Minister of Goa had promised two arrests recently. The first was a rapist of a seven year old child, whom the child had identified. The second recent case where he promised action against proven crime was the group of political workers who thrashed a Nigerian badly enough to send him to hospital, serious with head injuries. Video footage should make it really easy for the assaulters to be identified. 53 Nigerians got booked for "hooliganism" none of the political workers got booked for an assault that put a man's life in danger. So yes, I totally believe that this case is not political and that Parrikar takes actions against any wrongs he spots. Right.

In a country where laws presume a woman to be speaking the truth on accusations of rape, it becomes important to not harm the chances of the accused in being innocent till proved guilty, or the laws will get resented, genuine distress will be dismissed as framing of innocent men and so on. We may be able to deliver to standards where an accusation of rape without proof can send a man to jail for ten years, getting the masses to see that as justice will not be so easy. Worse, high profile cases will create a spillover of perception about all accusations of rape that cannot be proved and get believed on the victim's word alone. It is already difficult for victims to get justice, what kind of very serious cover ups will happen to protect men from women with "unfair advantages"? When I went to file a police complaint for domestic abuse two years ago, the "man talk" in the station with my husband who had accompanied me was all about how nothing can be done if a woman "chooses to frame her husband". There was no complaint filed.

How long before accusations of rape go under that banner of "chooses to frame"?

A controversial provision to protect women being weaponized against an accused to destroy him without a trial is guaranteed to do more harm than good. The price will be a setback for the credibility of women when they claim to be abused. Without trivializing the trauma of any kind of abuse, the fact is that today, an elite woman was able to use a safeguard to bring her assaulter down without a trial, while for the common woman, the fact continues that she has trouble being believed unless she lands up in the hospital or morgue. In spite of filing a case, the Dainik Bhaskar victim has had no such belief invested in her accusations, even as two other women report the same exploitation of them by the same man. Harish Bhatia remains comfortably "unavailable for comment" with media not particularly bothered about the gravity of his actions. The NCW that is so concerned about the Tejpal case let Harish Bhatia's victim down without so much as a splash.

So let us not pretend that this is any moment of awareness of women's rights. Media choosing to magnify this case and present the accused as already guilty has led to *this* woman being believed when she claims an assault. Nothing has changed for women at large and if it has, it certainly has not changed for the better with an exhibition of what "a woman can do to a man" without trial - when it was in reality the media who did it. A media that has already dialed down the interest in this case and will move on, till it picks another woman out of the crowd to fight her case, as usual leaving the status quo for women at large undisturbed. This woman has a lot of well connected friends who may support her after the limelight moves on, but for all intents and purposes, the story is over. The media court has judged and moved on. The victim can fight her own war in a court of law indefinitely. A war she didn't want defending an accusation she hadn't put into words (rape). A war she cannot back off from now without appearing to be accusing falsely. A war that will require her to travel to a different state to fight - something her accused can do far more easily than her.

There is nothing more damaging to the cause of women's rights than hit and run feminists who grab a cause, rampage for vengeance and get distracted by the next glittery thing, dumping the war they magnified onto the victim's head, who will now have to deal with it on her own.

Sex sells. Media still treats rape as sex for this purpose. Sex sells even when it is simply saying rape is not sex. Get it?

What does it matter if the sheer magnitude of "outrage" has put 9 people out of jobs at the last count, counting resignations in protest (including victim) and Shoma and Tejpal stepping down. An organization is near collapse putting hundreds of jobs at further risk. And the case has not even reached courts.

This, to me is not feminism, but an exploitation of feminism for agendas against specific accused. An exploitation of feminism for media profits.

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Here are some of the things that don't add up with regard to some of what the victim says and what is known/observed/claimed in my view.

Who leaked the emails?

Increasingly it is appearing that the emails were leaked with the girl's knowledge and as a warped kind of press release series. There is a reason I am calling it a press release. They seem to have been circulated mostly to journalists and media professionals very rapidly and they do not seem to have any kind of selective audience in terms of a private email updating a trusted friend of what is going on. They were very clearly for release as a campaign, because they hit the media almost simultaneously from multiple sources - something that would be more uncertain if journalists were not sure that they could use the emails for reporting.

Is it rape, sexual harassment, molestation or sexual misconduct?

This question is really important, because the victim describes a rape in her letter of complaint to Shoma. She calls it molestation. And she demands an apology for sexual misconduct. And this is one letter so far. I am not a lawyer, but to the best of my knowledge, sexual misconduct is sexually offensive behavior that is not exactly illegal. I imagine many don't know the distinction, but would a journalist reporting on women's rights know the difference? I cannot imagine how she wouldn't know unless she was really bad at her job - which all indications are she was good. I also don't believe this discrepancy was accidental from someone used to reporting using precise terms writing an official letter stating the wrongs against her.

Why is there no complaint against her senior who took no action against her rape?

Unless the victim is deliberately targeting Shoma, I cannot understand why her senior, whom she confided in is not accused, but apparently actually on her side. For all intents and purposes, this senior heard her complaint and did not find it serious enough to take action. Unless of course any action he took was beyond the requirements of his role and can't be disclosed in media for fear of weakening her case in the media court - for example helping the victim get confessions she could take to court.

Were Shoma and Tejpal's daughter special targets?

Senior not taking action immediately, when the alleged crime was raw did not bother her and in fact, he continues to be "on her side" including resigning with a letter accusing Shoma of doing what he did, but the criticism on Shoma is for exactly that - avoiding doing anything.

When in fact, Shoma had, at the very least done far more than any actions this senior took, as is evidenced by the flurry of emails being leaked. Regardless of accusations about motives - which in my view are not substantiated in any conclusive way - it cannot be disputed that immediately after getting the victim's email, Shoma did indeed make Tejpal write that letter of apology - which would at least involve confronting him and forcing him to toe the line - as I can't imagine a rapist or honest man with any sense of self preservation blithely giving it in writing that he violated a girl. This is not exactly ignoring the complaint.

What apology was requested?

What the victim puts in writing describes rape, calls it molestation/sexual harassment, asks for unconditional apology for misconduct - which is what she got. Tejpal's email acknowledges and apologizes for misconduct and neither rape nor molestation. The victim herself states in writing that she agreed to the euphemism:

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”.

But the problem apparently was that the "right thing" was not doing as she had asked and agreed to. What she wanted was an admission of guilt - which too she has stated in some letter, I forget where.

Did she want the apology or not?

That the victim had asked for an apology is clear from the leaked emails. Tarun Tejpal made an informal apology to her as well as a formal one following it. To which she replied

The only people you owe an apology to are your employees at Tehelka, for desecrating their and my faith in you. Please do not attempt any further personal correspondence with me - you lost that privilege when you violated my trust and body.

So if Tejpal did not owe her an apology, or should not attempt "further personal correspondence" with her, then what exactly was she asking for?

What was hushed?

The only hushing here seems to be on the victim's side. Her supporters concealed the sexual assault, did not independently take adequate measures to protect her and continued to do nothing even on hearing that she had been harassed again. She did not seem to have a problem with this. She confided to Tejpal's daughter who did not have a problem confronting her father whether festival or not - same daughter is now accused of intimidating the victim. Shoma got Tejpal to make her an apology that was copied to the journalists she had confided in. Tejpal's stepping down could not be kept secret anyway, but the action was chosen and circulated with a limited explanation that raised more questions than it answered and couldn't possibly be "controlled" anyway - as also seen from the immediate leak of the letter.

If the "hushing" is about prefering to deal with it within the organization, it is hardly a new thing in organizations to not want to court justice. As for hushing, this case has got more publicity than any other case of workplace sexual harassment I have heard recently. And the publicity was engineered by the victim or her supporters and not prevented in any way.

This actually was the part that angered me, because Shoma and Tejpal - whether guilty or not - were clearly acting on an assumption of confidentiality that the victim had explicitly stated a preference for and confirms even in her resignation letter, while publicity was deliberately seeked once the "apology" was in writing. This is deception and I am fine with it (so sue me) if it helps victims get justice, and kicks up a shitstorm. I am uneasy when the deception serves to completely wipe out what one side has to say. Or rather, I'm fine with deception helping give voice to someone who would find it difficult otherwise. I am not fine deception being the basis of establishing a "truth" version to the point that others are not allowed.

If we are to believe media, no sexual harassment happens in other media houses, and if it happens, it is immediately made public and sexual harassment committees deal with it with due process and eploitative seniors go to jail. So someone point out some news reports for the organizations talking loudest at the moment about an organization that was able to issue an apology and get the person to step down to allow for better investigation within days of receiving complaint.

Is Tejpal guilty or innocent? I have no idea. Is Tehelka trying to hide something? It doesn't look so at the moment, though the first interviews pointed in that direction. They make perfect sense if you consider that the victim had stated a preference for an internal process as well as not wanting an FIR - something her supporters independently confirmed and defended as well at that time.

Did she want a sexual harassment committee?

As Shoma points out in her letter, the victim may have wanted a sexual harassment committee, but did not submit her nominations for who she trusted. This is a fact not "leaked" to media. Not just that she did not suggest anyone she trusted, but that she was actually asked to provide names she trusted, because it breaks the bubble of yet another accusation - that a sexual harassemnt committee would have been controlled by Tejpal to discredit her. Check Niti Central for a script of what such a committee would to.

And so on.

I didn't really want to bring this up, because it goes against my grain to question claims of a victim of sexual abuse. At the same time, it is abundantly clear in this whole saga that "feminist defaults" have been used excellently to influence public opinion and that kind of exploits feminism as well. Here are some:

  1. Do not question the victim when she claims rape. But this was not a court of law, victim actually did not claim rape - you'd have to question her to establish it was rape if she claimed sexual molestation - and the process of dispensing justice had started well before the emails were done leaking.
  2. Use of language to convey guilt. "You are now attempting to establish that Mr Tejpal has “another version” of events (as surely, any sexual predator does)..." in the victim's resignation letter, for example. The thing here is every person on the planet involved in anything has their own version. Having another version is not something exclusive to sexual predators or those somehow guilty. On the other hand, establishing one version as right and discrediting any other from even being stated is an indication of suppressing one side - not its invalidity.

Anyway, this is now turning into a mud slinging thing, which was not my objective. At the same time, I think unpleasant and counterproductive to the victim's credibility as these questions are, the need to ask them has been born out of the magnitude of "truth" that is being assigned to them.

I also accept that a victim sees things from a unique perspective and cannot be expected to be neutral. This does not mean that everything she perceives is fact. Nor does it mean that every wrong she believes is done to her was intentional or even about her at all. A classic example being the stormy night crap from Tejpal's letter that she replies to with cutting feminist outrage that sounds more like Tejpal fixated on her boobs instead of a thunderstorm he was already listening to. And it probably feels really unfair to her that her purpose of visiting him didn't register on him, but the fact of life is that we do a lot of work without it having any impact on us in terms of being a long term memory. Would I remember the reason for someone who routinely meets me for work visiting on a day I remember sharing something beautiful with them? I wouldn't. I would probably remember it in detail when something relevant to the work came up - which wouldn't be the weather.

This isn't rocket science and I bet all the people outraging don't remember why their subbordinates visited them in some moment they remember either - something that a media that was actually making an effort to understand the situation would realize and form their own responses instead of parroting accusations.

The problem is when an entire news media industry adopts the same bias - by accident or design - and magnifies a cry for justice to the point that it becomes a holy cow that can't be questioned and goes on a rampage of accusations and slander and not just against the person accused of the crime, but (ironically) women associated with him, organizations associated with him and questions start coming up whether an organization employing hundreds will survive the scandal, then this is very dangerous. It is also an alarming lack of critical thinking in media.

The victim can change her mind, want one thing at one moment and another at another as long as they all lead to her perpetrator being nailed. And it is normal for a troubled mind to be thus. The media cannot abdicate their own neutrality or claim a collective trauma to accept all she says as the complete truth and proceed to accuse people on the basis of not doing what she would want done later as a criticism of their doing what she asked for. Among other irrational things.

I am frankly scared at the implications on women's rights with this, because women at large do not have the power to deal with men if they choose to be paranoid about what women can do to them and it cannot be long before people realize that they have not heard Tejpal being listened to fairly at all. Hell, *I* would worry about professionally asking any man to have unchaperoned interactions with women if I couldn't even guarantee all parties a fair hearing if an issue arose.