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Pressure as girl readies to testify

New Delhi, Nov. 23: The young journalist who has accused Tarun Tejpal of sexually assaulting her has signalled readiness to record her statement before a magistrate and disclosed an alleged attempt by a close relative of Tejpal to exert pressure on her family.

“On the night of 22nd of November 2013, a member of Mr. Tejpal’s immediate family came to my mother’s house in New Delhi, asking my mother to protect Mr. Tejpal and demanded to know 1) who I was seeking legal help from and 2) what I ‘wanted’ as the result of my complaint of sexual molestation by Mr. Tejpal, that was made to the Tehelka management earlier this week,” the girl said in a statement emailed through a friend.

In the statement, she expressed fear of intimidation and harassment. “This visit has placed tremendous emotional pressure on my family and I at an intensely traumatic time. I fear this may be the beginning of a period of further intimidation and harassment. I call upon all persons connected to Mr. Tejpal and his associates to refrain from approaching me or my family members,” she added.

This is the first time the journalist has issued a public statement since the controversy broke. Till now, the allegations had entered the public domain through emails leaked from multiple sources.

Although unsigned because of the confidentiality factors associated with such sensitive cases, the statement specifically confirms that she had complained of sexual molestation by Tejpal to the Tehelka management.

This more or less removes the cloud hanging over the legal process as doubts were expressed over the fate of the case in the absence of a police complaint by the girl. Lawyers said the statement would accelerate a process that should lead to the prosecution of Tejpal, who has “recused” himself for six months as the editor-in-chief of the Tehelka magazine.

“She will cooperate with the police and record her statement in front of the magistrate,” said Revati Laul, who has resigned from Tehelka.

“I do not work for someone who raped my friend. I am extremely devastated in the way that Shoma (Chaudhury, the managing editor) and (Tarun) Tejpal behaved as human beings. She (the journalist) will talk to the cops too,” Laul told The Telegraph.

Texted whether someone from his family had approached the girl’s mother, Tejpal replied: “It’s one more lie, in an endless litany.”

Tejpal had yesterday described the allegations as “total” lies and claimed that “a consensual encounter” had taken place in Goa. But an email attributed to “Tarun” and sent earlier to the girl had said: “I apologise unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison… despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.”

A colleague who was in Goa stood by the girl. “We didn’t witness anything. We believed the story she told us when she reached our rooms on 7 November, completely distraught. Our faith in her account remains total. If the Goa police were to ask, I would be happy to corroborate what she said in her email to Shoma Chaudhury,” said Shougat Dasgupta, the literary editor of Tehelka.

Dasgupta was mentioned in the girl’s email to the managing editor as one of the three colleagues she had confided in soon after the incident. Two of the three colleagues are expected to resign shortly.

Lawyers said the girl could record her statement before a magistrate in Delhi or Mumbai, and the judicial official could call for copies of the case papers from Goa police. The magistrate can also order police protection for the girl.

However, if she decides to record her statement in Goa, the process will be expedited, they said.

“People who choose to go to a magistrate to record their statement instead of going to the police usually have a threat perception. In this case, should she record such a statement, her case is likely to lead to a prosecution of the accused and the accused will be put on trial,” said Supreme Court lawyer K.V. Dhananjay.

A three-member team from Goa police, which had filed an FIR against Tejpal charging him with rape, today took an in-camera statement from Chaudhury at the Tehelka office in south Delhi.

“I have been cooperating (with the police),” Chaudhury said.

A police team is also expected to meet the girl.

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