Tarun Tejpal, one of India’s most high-profile investigative journalists, is undergoing questioning by authorities in the western Indian state of Goa, after he was placed under police custody for six days by a local court, Indian media reported.
Tejpal, 50, was arrested on Saturday over a female colleague’s complaint that he sexually assaulted her on two occasions in November, during a media event in Goa organized by a company owned by Tejpal, his sister Neena Tejpal and Tehelka’s former managing editor, Shoma Chaudhury. Tejpal, who refutes the allegations, has not been formally charged.
The woman, who cannot be named under Indian law, said in a statement on Nov. 29 that Tejpal’s sexual misconduct fell “within the legal definition of rape,” and denied allegations that her claims were politically motivated.
“The struggle for women to assert control over their lives and their bodies is most certainly a political one, but feminist politics and its concerns are wider than the narrow universe of our political parties,” she wrote. “Thus, I call upon our political parties to resist the temptation to turn a very important discussion about gender, power and violence into a conversation about themselves.”
The woman resigned on Nov. 25, saying she has been “deeply traumatized by the lack of support offered” by Tehelka, adding: “In such circumstances, it is untenable for me to continue to work for this organization.”
Chaudhury, who drew severe criticism for letting Tejpal step aside temporarily as a punitive measure, also resigned amid severe scrutiny aimed at Tehelka by the media and the political establishment.
Four more journalists have quit the magazine over the scandal, which has drawn massive media interest since it broke, partly because Tehelka has been at the forefront of covering gender issues and sexual crimes in the country, and has strongly campaigned against “victim-blaming” and character attacks against victims of sexual crimes.
The woman who accused Tejpal wrote in her resignation letter to Chaudhury: “At a time when I find myself victim to such a crime, I am shattered to find the Editor in Chief of Tehelka, and you - in your capacity as Managing Editor - resorting to precisely these tactics of intimidation, character assassination and slander,” according to a Times of India report.
Before its launch as a print magazine, Tehelka.com successfully withstood years of government investigations and police raids after sparking an uproar in 2001, when it used a sting operation to expose top Indian defense officials accepting bribes in a fake arms deal.
The exposé, which led to the resignations of top members of the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party-led ruling coalition, and some top bureaucrats, prompted a political retaliatory campaign against the media house, forcing it to reduce the number of its reporters from 120 to just three at the time.
The media conference where the incident is alleged to have taken place was held in Goa from Nov. 8 to Nov. 10.