Tarun Tejpal, the founder and editor of Delhi-based news magazine Tehelka, announced on Wednesday that he would be recusing himself as editor of the publication for six months, following an alleged incident of sexual assault on a female staff member.
In an email sent to the editorial staff of Tehelka, managing editor Shoma Chaudhury wrote: “This may come as a rude surprise to many of you. There is a letter from Tarun appended to this mail. There has been an untoward incident, and though he has extended an unconditional apology to the colleague involved, Tarun will be recusing himself as the editor of Tehelka for the next six months.”
In an email sent to Chaudhury earlier in the day, Tejpal wrote, “The last few days have been most testing, and I squarely take the blame for this. A bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for.
“I have always held that Tehelka the institution, and its work, have always been infinitely more important than any of us individuals. It is tragic, therefore, that in a lapse of judgment I have hurt our own high principles. Because it involves Tehelka, and a sterling shared legacy, I feel atonement cannot be just words. I must do the penance that lacerates me. I am therefore offering to recuse myself from the editorship of Tehelka, and from the Tehelka office, for the next six months.”
Chaudhary later sent a mail to the Tehelka staffers apprising them of the development. "This may come as a rude surprise to many of you... There has been an untoward incident, and though he has extended an unconditional apology to the colleague involved, Tarun will be recusing himself as the editor of Tehelka for the next six months," she said.
The emails soon made the rounds on social media, following which there was collective outrage on Twitter, with many calling for Tejpal’s arrest, and some in support of the unnamed female staffer.
Delhi-based journalist Mihir Sharma said, “You can’t “atone” for sexual assault by taking a sabbatical. I think that’s well established as a moral and legal principle.”
Many other tweeters goaded the National Commission for Women to take suo motu notice of the incident and take legal action against Tejpal.
An email questionnaire to Chaudhury requesting comments went unanswered.