Statement Condemning the Sexual Assault of Woman Journalist from Tehelka

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression (WSS) is in complete solidarity and supports the woman journalist who has made a serious complaint of repeated aggravated sexual assault against Tarun Tejpal – her powerful and influential director/ employer in Tehelka and Thinkworks – despite her personal distress, and the manifold pressures she has been subjected to.

A First Information Report has been lodged, and there is now no question that anything short of resolute action, under the law against accused Tarun Tejpal, could be acceptable. Fake regrets, deliberate falsification and manipulation of facts, character assassination of the complainant and even the claim that the complaint is politically motivated by the Right wing forces cannot be used to deflect the focus from the crime or trivialize its exigency.

There is no doubt that Tehelka and its team of bold journalists have done some extremely courageous investigative journalism at great personal risk in the past, which include exposing the state apathy in regards to sexual violence against adivasi women by the security forces, or the incidents of sexual violence against women of minority communities in orchestrated riots supported by the state agencies in Gujarat. It is therefore, extremely unfortunate, that this criminal act of Tarun Tejpal. has given the gleeful right wingers the ground to strike back and question Tehelka.

However, it only reinforces our belief in the feminist principle that a person’s behaviour in her/his personal life should seek to exemplify the very politics and values which one claims to stand for. It also underscores that the journey of Tarun Tejpal from Tehelka to “Thinkworks”— whose “Think” festival had recently come under severe attack by local people of Goa as being sponsored by unscrupulous corporates and mining barons guilty of gross violations of people’s rights and environmental laws— must certainly have heightened his sense of power and impunity that led to this criminal offense.

The vandalism portrayed by the BJP workers in this instance is extremely reprehensible— especially their selective targeting of the woman journalist’s house . It completely exposes the false and patronizing claims, they are seriously dedicated to make this country safe for women. There is not a single instance, where one recalls them showing any empathy, concern or civil response towards the many cases of repeated custodial sexual violence against women by the state agencies, against honor killings or against illegal surveillance of young women by state agencies. We hope that all those standing for this case, will also stand up for the safety of women at large and not selectively, just for vested political gains.

Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression reiterates its demand that in all cases of sexual violence perpetrated by persons wielding power and influence over women— whether as employers, custodians, political leaders, godmen, personnel of the armed forces, police and judges—strict action must be taken against the perpetrators, irrespective of their status and rank, as would be taken against any ordinary criminal accused of the same offence. In all such cases, it is important that the specified procedure stated by law must be followed.

The speed and efficiency shown by the state government in this case should become the norm for all such complaints of sexual violence.

WSS is a nationwide non funded, autonomous network of women’s groups and women from diverse political and social movements.

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