Indian editor caught in sex assault scandal

2013-11-21 15:42
Protestors against gender violence. (Bikas Das, AP)

Protestors against gender violence. (Bikas Das, AP)

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New Delhi - The editor of India's leading investigative news magazine was accused on Thursday of trivialising a serious sex crime after he announced he would take six months' leave as "penance" for assaulting a female colleague.

Tarun Tejpal, founder and editor of Tehelka magazine, admitted "misconduct" in an email to the managing editor of the publication and offered to step aside temporarily to atone for his behaviour.

"A bad lapse of judgement, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for," Tejpal wrote in his email which was sent to staff at the magazine on Wednesday.

"I must do penance that lacerates me," he added.

With the media newly sensitised to sexual assault cases after a string of widely publicised gang-rape cases this year, Tejpal's confession and the magazine's reaction were front-page news and widely criticised.


"What penance? What atonement? An apology and offer to step down may be his personal way of pitying himself and feeling remorse, but that doesn't absolve him of his crime," women's activist Ranjana Kumari told AFP.

She added that "gross misuse of power, misogyny" was sadly common in Indian workplaces.

Authorities would only investigate the incident at Tehelka if the victim files a police case.

She had reportedly asked for an internal investigation and a written apology to be circulated to staff.

The weekly magazine pioneered undercover sting operations and has published a string of scoops on cricket match-fixing, the involvement of politicians in religious riots in 2002 and bribe-taking.

Lately it has reported forcefully on gender inequality in India, highlighting police and judicial insensitivity to rape victims as well as the misogynistic attitudes of many Indian men.

New laws

Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury declined to comment when contacted by AFP but she told The Indian Express newspaper that "the matter was taken up internally and has been addressed and redressed".

The fatal gang rape of a student on a New Delhi bus last December touched off sometimes violent demonstrations and a long period of introspection in India about the treatment of women and rising crime against them.

In March, the government passed a law toughening sentences for sex offenders, containing new penalties for rape, stalking and groping.

The magazine scandal broke just after police in New Delhi launched a probe into allegations of sexual harassment against an unnamed retired Supreme Court who was implicated by a young female lawyer.

Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research, said that some Indian women now felt emboldened to report harassment given the public focus on improving women's rights.

Read more on:    india  |  gender equaility

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