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Tehelka case: Day after the ‘crime’,the same Shoma reflected on the ‘beast in our midst’

Goa,Day 1 of Think Fest 2013 organised by the magazine.

Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury Thursday continued to stonewall reporters on her colleague’s complaint of sexual assault against editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal . She accused the media of pressuring her and made a bizarre claim that Tejpal’s “recusal” was “over and above” what the victim had asked for.

Less than a fortnight ago — in fact,the morning after the alleged sexual assault — not far from the scene of the crime,it was a slightly different version of Shoma Chaudhury that took centrestage.

The venue: Goa,Day 1 of Think Fest 2013 organised by the magazine. The setting: a panel discussion on ‘The Beast In Our Midst: Rape Survivors Speak Their Stories’.

Chaudhury,as moderator,began sombrely,stating how 98 per cent of the rapes that take place are by perpetrators known to the victim. “We never look at how deeply misogynistic and prejudiced our own society is,” she said as she turned the spotlight “on our own silences and to deepen our understanding of how complicit we are about the beast in our midst.”

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She introduced “four extraordinarily brave people who have agreed to share their stories of deep pain,fear,protracted humiliation and the slow,determined fight back…not an easy fight because families of those…who have suffered assault are the ones who ask for silence.”

One of her panelists,Harish Iyer,would disagree.

“It’s quite ironic to think that the alleged incident took place at the event where we were talking about sexual abuse and rape,” said Iyer,equal rights activist,a survivor of sexual abuse.

He spoke on the abuse he faced as a child. Others who spoke at the session included activist Manisha Devi and rape survivors Sandhya and Suzette Jordan.

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While Iyer admits to being shocked by Tejpal’s alleged assault on his colleague,he is clear that Tejpal’s “atonement” falls short.

“It is for the survivor to take action,it is not for Tarun or anybody at Tehelka to say that issue has been redressed. How did they redress the issue? By sending Tarun on a six-month vacation?” Iyer told The Indian Express. “The right to say that it is an internal matter lies with the survivor. Sexual abuse is never an internal matter,it is not Tehelka’s internal matter.”

Another speaker at the same panel,too,has spoken up. Jordan,who was previously known to the public as the “Park Street Rape Victim” before reclaiming her name and identity in the months after her rape,says she is shocked that “the people organising the festival can take such a drastic step…”

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Jordan said she has been following the news since reading about the alleged assault on Facebook yesterday. “I met Tejpal briefly at the festival and he seemed like a very decent man.” Incidentally,while recounting the story of her assault at the session,Jordan remembered the man she had met at the nightclub and the one who turned out to be her alleged first rapist,as somebody who looked “decent.”

The Goa police may have stated their intent to probe the young journalist’s allegations against Tejpal but Jordan is sceptical if it will yield any results. “I don’t really have any expectation regarding the police,” she says. Will she go to another ThiNK Fest and talk about sexual abuse and rape again? “I will,because now there will be even more to say.”

A text message to Chaudhury today went unanswered.

First published on: 22-11-2013 at 04:06 IST
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