Tehelka: The falling organization in front of us

A defiant Tarun Tejpal is trying to give the case a political colour but it will not stop the employees from leaving the organisation.

A sexual harassment at workplace charge and five resignations within a week – what does this tell you about an organization?

After the victim’s resignation in Tehelka sexual assault case, today, Tehelka’s senior editor Rana Ayyub resigned from her post reportedly in protest over how the organisation and its managing editor Shoma Chaudhury handled the sexual assault case. Last week, Shougat Dasgupta, Ayesha Siddiqa, Jay Mazoomdaar and Revati Laul had resigned from the organisation.

The credibility that Tehelka built over the years after it exposed several sensational cases, including several sex crimes, is damaged. Not only that, the case has exposed the hypocrisy that was hidden behind the so-called brave journalist and writer, Tehelka’s own editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal and managing editor Shoma Chaoudhury.

The leaked contents of the e-mails exchanged between Tejpal, Chaudhury and the victim clearly tell us the saga of an organization whose leader was quite self-obsessed. The self-obsession is not only evident in the histrionics of this case; it was also evident in Tejpal’s conduct recently.

Reportedly, the writer was condemned for extending his speech on legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan at the Think Fest in Goa where the incident happened. The audience booed him for his lack of sense of propriety for he had referred to the actor, and repeatedly so, as Amitabh and not as Mr. Amitabh or Amitabhji or Mr. Bachchan.

The writer of Alchemy of Desire was crowned by the foreign media as crusader of truth in the Indian media for his exposes and naked pieces. Maybe that went to his head.

But in the end, it all affected his own baby of sweat and toil. Jay, who resigned last Friday from his post of consulting editor, had said that the way the issue was handled was very disappointing. “What should have been a transparent and legal issue… has ended up causing serious damage to the organization. In these circumstances, it did not feel right to continue with the magazine,” he had sad.

Revati not only resigned from her post as an assistant editor, she went ahead and issued statements in various media spaces which said that the she was disgusted with the incident and that managing editor Shoma Choudhury’s double-speak and grand standing clearly indicated that she was fovouring him.

“I wanted to quit the instant I came to know about the incident but waited to see how the company handled it. I was upset when the management decided that a public apology and Tarun’s stepping down would suffice and decided there was no point hanging on any further,” she had told the media.

Once a coveted organization for young journalists to work with, now Tehelka employees want to get away from it as soon as possible even if that means that they will have to search for a job in the coming months.

The stakeholders have also decided to pull out from the organization. According to a report in today’s Indian Express, industrialist Kanwar Deep “KD” Singh, who is also a Trinamool Congress MP, and the majority stakeholder in Tehelka through direct and indirect holdings, has decided to exit the venture completely. Singh has confirmed that he has around 65 percent stake in Tehelka. “We are going to exit the venture completely. In the past one year, we have divested around 20 percent of it”; the newspaper quotes him as saying.

While the facts of the case are an open secret, Tejpal is still defiant. First he, along with Chaoudhury went on saying that the victim was completely “satisfied” with Tejpal’s apology. Then the rounds of intimidation started which was reported by the victim.

Even when the waves are against him, Tejpal is merely attracting public furor for his defiant status. Stooping low further, Tejpal questioned victim’s morals and went on her character assassination. Recent in his statements is an attempt to give the controversy a political twist.

After Brinda Karat wrote in The Hindu questioning Goa police quick action and Tribune writer Aakar Patel questioning BJP’s role, Tejpal has been quick to use their words as his own.

Patel had written in his article that after Tehelka exposed corruption in Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA government, BJP went out of its way to harass the organization. He wrote, “The BJP response was vicious and it went after the businesses of Tehelka’s financers, raiding them incessantly in an act of naked harassment.

I was on the executive committee of the Editors Guild of India then and one day, we invited LK Advani, who was home minister, over for a session. One of the first things he was asked was why he and his party were making life difficult for that little website (it was only a website then). Advani was disturbingly frank: “If they go after us, we will go after them.”

Goa is, of course, run by the BJP, which has sent a team to interrogate and perhaps, arrest Tejpal. Their enthusiasm for turning the screws on him can be seen in this light.”

However, Patel had mentioned that the move by Goa government was “right and completely justified”.

But what other thing which is more interesting in this case here is Congress’ backing to Tejpal. Reportedly, Congress minister Kapil Sibal owns stake at Tehelka and has been denying it altogether.

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