NEW DELHI: At least three Tehelka staffers resigned with more likely to quit questioning the manner in which the management had handled allegations of sexual assault leveled against its editor-in-chief, Tarun Tejpal.
Special correspondent Revati Laul—who had put in her papers on November 20—spoke in strong defence of her friend and colleague who has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Tejpal. Consulting editor Jay Mazoodaar and Features editor Shougat Dasgupta have also put in their papers in the last two days.
Accusing managing editor Shoma Chaudhury of "double-speak" and "grand-standing", Laul said Chaudhury's behaviour clearly indicated that she was firmly on Tejpal's side.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, Laul questioned the fact that if complaint made it clear that it was a rape case, then why was an apology that spoke about "lapses'' and "incident'' accepted at all. She also questioned the need for Tarun to speak through Shoma in his apology to Tehelka staffers. "Why should Tarun be speaking through Shoma? Why should the perpetrator be speaking through Shoma? Shoma should have come out in support of the victim from day one... she didn't... merely saying won't help," Laul said.
On being asked if her friend would approach the police on her own, Laul said it was irrelevant now as the police had already taken suo-moto action in the case. "Many are asking why she doesn't come out and make a statement to the public... I think it is valid for her to make her first statement before the magistrate and not in public."
Laul said this was a clear case of rape and lauded the victim for taking on Tehelka. "I believe it was completely non-consensual... he (Tejpal) even said he was sorry and he takes complete responsibility for forcing himself on her... Tarun's act was much more that transgressing the editor-journalist relationship, it was rape." She added that making it appear as a consensual act was a classic case by a perpetrator to try and defend himself.
Speaking to TOI, Mazoomdaar expressed disappointment at the way the complaint was handled prompting him to end his contract with Tehelka. When asked on his reasons for quitting Mazoomdaar said, "I was disappointed by the way that the case was handled and the lack of transparency...I do not see any reason to sit in moral judgment but if a crime has been committed and a person admits to it, he should face the legal consequences...he (Tejpal) had every right to deny it when he was accused of the crime. He confessed. You cannot confess and then decide your own punishment.''
Sources said that features editor Dasgupta—who was one of the first few people to whom the complainant talked about the incident— had also resigned but would continue to serve his notice period. The resignations — and more are likely to follow — have exposed the chinks in the magazine where several employees as friends of the complainant have taken a stand.