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Parting letter to Tehelka clears air

Nov. 25: The resignation of the young journalist from Tehelka signals that the girl, who has so far not approached police on her own, will not settle for anything less than criminal proceedings against her former boss Tarun Tejpal.

The journalist has accused Tejpal of sexual assault, alleged a “cover-up” and referred to character assassination tactics by him and managing editor Shoma Chaudhury.

“Given the sequence of events since the 7th of November, it is not just Mr Tejpal who has failed me as an employer — but Tehelka that has failed women, employees, journalists and feminists collectively,” the journalist wrote in her resignation letter.

Chaudhury had announced last Friday that she would set up a panel to probe the sexual harassment charges leveled by the journalist against Tejpal, who had decided to “recuse” himself from Tehelka’s editorship for six months.

The journalist’s initial reluctance to file an FIR had led to confusion over whether she would seek criminal proceedings against Tejpal, or would wait for the verdict of the Tehelka probe panel headed by a publisher — and Tejpal’s friend — Urvashi Butalia.

But the journalist’s resignation has brought to an end Tehelka’s attempts to settle behind closed doors what under India’s new sexual harassment law amounts to charges of rape but what Chaudhury described last week as the magazine’s “internal matter”.

The journalist, in her resignation letter, explained just why she felt Chaudhury was indulging in a cover-up.

The journalist had initially demanded that Tejpal, along with an unconditional apology to her, should also write to the entire office accepting his offence of “sexual misconduct”. Instead, Tejpal, in the infamous email where he vowed to “lacerate” himself, claimed responsibility for only an “untoward incident”.

“This was not an attempt to ‘protect the institution’ but in fact, an attempt to cover-up what had really occurred — the act of sexual molestation, an admission of the facts that Mr Tejpal had ‘attempted sexual liaison’ with me (to quote his email) on two occasions despite my ‘reluctance to receive such attention’,” the journalist wrote in her resignation letter.

She has also rejected Tejpal’s claim in his apology to her that he had withdrawn his statement telling her it was easier for her to accede to his advances since he was her boss. “He did not withdraw this statement as his emails allege,” she has said.

Tejpal, apprehending possible arrest, has applied for anticipatory bail in Delhi High Court, attempting to block any application by Goa police for a transit remand to take him to Goa.

The young journalist is in touch with multiple lawyers who specialise in sexual harassment cases. “She has consulted me, that is correct,” Supreme Court lawyer Rebecca John said. “But I cannot say anything more. She wants it that way.”

Goa police DIG O.P. Mishra said the investigating officers are now in direct contact with the girl.

“Goa police have had multiple conversations with her. She is a strong and very brave girl. Our first priority is to protect her identity as the investigation pans out,” said Mishra.

A Goa police team is in Mumbai to record her statement. “She is likely to give her statement to the police soon. The delay is because of logistical reasons. She wants her lawyer by her side when she gives her statement to the police and before a magistrate,” said a source close to her.

The victim’s statement will facilitate Tejpal’s arrest, feel the police.

The Goa State Women’s Commission demanded that Chaudhury be arrested for her attempts to “cover-up” a crime.

“Every time her version is changing. She seems to be protecting Tejpal rather than the victim. She has even tried to stall investigators and should be arrested for this,” commission’s chairperson Vidya Seth who is in constant touch with the victim told The Telegraph.