Now, it is Outrage Against Outrage on Rape - The New Indian Express

Now, it is Outrage Against Outrage on Rape

Published: 01st Dec 2013 09:38:42 AM

On his way to the plane restroom midflight, when Tarun Tejpal was asked what he would do about the rape charge, he said, “...It’s a political vendetta. I’ll get bail.”

In a heart-wrenching contrast, the victim continued to reiterate her lone fight for justice through another statement.

In the previous week, the Tehelka case has exposed several layers of outrage. With NCW and few women’s rights activists asserting the rights of a woman in respect with her body, the previous week could have given the country a much-required open debate and understanding on the rape laws. Instead, the gender debate has suffered several holes owing to the political free for all between the Congress and the BJP leaders. There was outrage against outrage on rape; outrage for the sake of the victim, and another outrage to safeguard the privacy of the accused. Madhu Kishwar and Meenakshi Lekhi attracted flak for naming and partly naming the victim respectively. The cause, the fight for justice for the victim fell flat. The chorus “Where are the protestors? Where are the feminists?” became louder. Shoma Chaudhury who came under attack for the way she handled the case and for being insensitive towards a woman colleague resigned from the post of the managing editor of Tehelka. Chaudhury’s resignation wouldn’t help heal Tehelka’s wounds owing to the acerbic aspersions cast on her stand on sexual crime. Her resignation wouldn’t help rescue her tattered reputation as an ineffective feminist.

“I don’t know if I am ready to see myself as a ‘rape victim’, for my colleagues, friends, supporters and critics to see me thus. It is not the victim that categorizes crimes: it is the law. And in this case, the law is clear: what Mr. Tejpal did to me falls within the legal definition of rape,” the victim said in a statement. However, she said she was heartened by the broad support she had received over the past fortnight. Despite the storm of slander she is facing from her critics in public life and media, the victim has continued to make her stand clear on her fight against sexual crime. Her new statement speaks of the difficulties she is braving to stand by the gender notions and views she has expressed and supported in her writing. She has raised her voice on the question marks put on her “silence” and her normal behaviour after the alleged rape during the ThinkFest in Goa.

A Twitter outrage triggered against adman and theatre personality Alyque Padamsee’s comments on the victim choosing to use the lift in Goa hotel widened the debate on gender sensitivity among Indian intellectuals (and the lack of it). Next, BJP’s Vijay Jolly faced ire on social networking site Twitter for defacing the nameplate outside Chaudhury’s house. Activism took a new colour when social activist Medha Patkar came out in support of Tehelka saying that she thought BJP would make full use of it. Its “politicisation is unfortunate,” she said.

In Delhi, at the inauguration of an art exhibition at a popular gallery, Tejpal’s friend and culture activist Sanjoy Roy, who earlier came out in defence of the Tehelka editor on a news show, made heads turn as he spoke in hushed tones about the case with a bunch of friends. Ironically, at the same exhibition, a luxury car with the ThinkFest logo and photographs of celeb guest imposed on it was put on display right outside the gallery entrance.

Nov 19: Email sent by Tarun Tejpal to the young journalist as “informal” apology

Dear ...

This is not the formal apology you seek. That will follow in a few minutes too. This is the informal one, for you and me.

I am sorry at the immense distress that’s been caused to you by my lapse of judgment, but I want you to know its been totally devastating for me too, in every possible way (and since you know YY and ZZ well, you would know what I am saying).

This is for me to figure out how it went so terribly misunderstood and wrong. To begin with, for 10 years at Tehelka one has ensured no shadow of anything limits or cramps the women journalists. At every forum, public and private, I have lauded the great work done by Tehelka’s women reporters and editors; and have personally always stayed at arm’s length. You yourself were always treated with the highest regard and accommodation and affection, and nothing ever asked of you save great work. Your continuous growth was always a source of pride. That you were tasked to escort De Niro was merely the latest token of our trust.

The context that ill-fated evening, of our conversation, as you will recall, was heavily loaded. We were playfully and flirtatiously talking about desire, sex; you were telling me the Bob Geldof story in graphic detail, and about RR [the woman’s male friend], and the near-impossibility of fidelity; and of the aftermath of meeting me one stormy evening in my office when I was sitting watching the thunderclouds. I also want to clarify that yes, you did say at one point that I was your boss, and I did reply “that makes it simpler” but in the very same breath and sentence I said to you “I withdraw that straight away — no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that”.

It was in this frivolous, laughing mood that the encounter took place. I had no idea that you were upset, or felt I had been even remotely non-consensual, until YY came and spoke to me the next night. I was shocked and devastated at the time. Both because you felt I had imposed on you (which had neither been my reading or intention), and because I felt I had been totally irresponsible and foolish to have anything furtive to do with my daughter’s intimate friend. At that very moment I was filled with shame, and still am. (And what is not true is that I ever, even remotely, whispered any word in intimidation.)

You have made it clear that I read it all wrong, and I will not dispute it, nor underplay your anger and hurt. This is easily the worst moment of my life — something ostensibly playful gone so horribly wrong, damaging of all that I hold dear in life, from people to principles.

I ask you to forgive and forget it. I will meet your mom and apologise to her too — and RR if you so wish. I also want you to keep working at Tehelka as you always have, reporting to Shoma as you do. Both Tehelka and Shoma have never let you down.

My punishment has already been upon me, and will probably last till my last day.



Nov 20: The victim’s reply


1. The conversation from that night was not “heavily loaded” or “flirtatious” — you were talking about “sex” or “desire” because that is what you usually choose to speak to me about, unfortunately, never my work, which if you had had occasion to read, you might not have attempted to sexually molest me, and certainly would have known that there was no way that I would stay silent about it and just vanish. There was no “aftermath” of that evening with the “thunderclouds” — this is exactly what happened: I wanted to discuss the first story I had written about a rape survivor with you. Ritu called me to your office, I walked in and you were lying on the couch with the lights off. I asked you if you wanted me to turn he lights on, and you refused. You continued to lie on the couch. I sat on a chair across from you in the same room and told you the survivor’s story. I wish again, that you remembered the professional reason I had met you that evening, instead of the storm and the thunderclouds.

2. This is what non-consent constitutes: the moment you laid a hand on me, I started begging you to stop. I invoked every single person and principle that was important to us — WW, XX, YY, ZZ, the fact that you were my employer, to make you stop. You refused to listen. In fact, you went ahead and decided to molest me again on the following night. We have often spoken of “what turns men into beasts” at Tehelka edit meetings, you yourself have commissioned several stories on this. It is this — not being able to take no for an answer.

3. You never, even once uttered the following words: “I withdraw that straight away — no relationship of mine has anything at all, ever, to do with that.” If your attempt at sexual molestation were really as consensual as you  seem to imply that it was Tarun, why would you have suddenly switched to speaking in legal terms in a “frivolous, laughing” moment?

4. Not only did you lash out at me verbally for telling YY, you also sent me a text message the next morning saying “I can’t believe you went and told her even the smallest thing. What a complete absence of understanding of a parent-child relationship”. Tarun, I can’t believe you think molesting an employee your daughter’s age, who is also your daughter’s friend is something you’d describe as “the smallest thing”. What an absence of understanding of what Tehelka stands for.

Unfortunately, your desire to apologize to RR only reeks of your own patriarchal notion that men own and possess female bodies, and that since you violated what you recognize as his “property”, you are in some way accountable to him. 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.

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