November 23, 2013 12:07:12 am
Booked for rape Friday,Tarun Tejpal has denied accusations of sexual assault but at least in one email to his alleged victim,he clearly admits to an attempt at a “sexual liaison” against her wishes.
In that email,sent on November 19,a day after the colleague complained to Managing Editor Shoma Chaudhury that she was sexually assaulted,Tejpal writes: “It wrenches me beyond describing,therefore,to accept that I have violated that long-standing relationship of trust and respect between us and I apologize unconditionally for the shameful lapse of judgement that led me to attempt a sexual liaison with you on two occasions on 7 November and 8 November 2013,despite your clear reluctance that you did not want such attention from me.”
Asked to explain this email,Tejpal told The Indian Express tonight: “These initial internal letters were demanded and done by Shoma as she insisted on closing a contentious issue through the sought apology. My version from first moment was totally different — and Shoma has admitted as much today.”
Chaudhury did not respond to a text sent by The Indian Express.
However,the victim,sources said,sent back a strong rebuttal to this email on November 21 saying that Tejpal was fudging the facts. It wasn’t an attempt at “sexual liaison,” she said,the fact was that “he sexually molested me,on two separate occasions and that he violated my bodily integrity and trust.”
Sources have told The Indian Express that this email raises questions about the veracity of claims made by Chaudhury during the day today about varying versions of the “incident” in Goa. They said that the victim had asked for a public apology from Tejpal acknowledging “sexual misconduct” but he had called it an “unfortunate incident”.
In the November 19 email,however,he claims to hold himself accountable: “There are many,many reasons,therefore,why I am smothered with regret. But I want you to know that foremost among them is the fact that I have hurt you and broken your trust in me,and that of many others around me. I have often spoken for the absolute rights and freedoms of women,and it shames me beyond words,to find myself located in this awful context. I would say it was a moment of insanity,except that would mean evading responsibility for it,and that I will not do. I hold myself,first and last,accountable.”
“I know Shoma has urged you not to leave Tehelka,and even as I acknowledge that I have lost the right to say this to you,I would urge you not to leave either,” he continues. “At the very least,I would like to assure you that the space to do your work proudly and freely,without worrying about fear or favour,will always be available to you here. For long years,you have known a different man,a man and editor you trusted and were proud to know. In extreme contrition,I would like you to know that but for this unconscionable lapse,that man still exists and holds you in highest regard.”
He begins the email by addressing her as a “young woman I have been very proud of,as a colleague’s daughter,and then as a colleague in my own office.”
“I have watched you grow and mature professionally into a journalist of great integrity and promise,” he says and goes on to add,”I understand the extreme distress you have been feeling and if regret could turn time back,the force of mine would surely place us all back in a space and time before this terrible lapse.”
Sources said the victim’s first letter to Chaudhury informing her of the incident was sent on Monday,November 18,following which the latter responded saying she was “distraught” at the turn of events. Chaudhury,it is learnt,offered to meet the victim in person. The next day,November 19,Chaudhury said another email to the victim saying Tejpal would apologize to her.
Sources said the victim asked for a public apology and the constitution of an internal committee to investigate the matter. A committee under publisher Urvashi Butalia was set up yesterday. The victim is also believed to have demanded that the mail from Chaudhury announcing Tejpal’s stepping down be sent out to all Tehelka staff and not just to editorial.
Meanwhile,another Tehelka staffer Revati Laul sent in her resignation to Chaudhury on November 20 saying the “abuse episode” was too much for her to take and that she could no longer work with Tejpal or Tehelka. Her resignation was accepted by Chaudhury later that night.
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