‘Tarun Tejpal was trapped in a skin not his own’


Former Outlook* publisher, Maheshwar Peri, who now runs Pathfinder Media, the magazine company which publishes Careers 360, on his friend and former colleague Tarun J. Tejpal**.




The stupidity of our nation gets greatly exposed with the extreme reactions to Tarun J. Tejpal—the cult following of his journalism at one end, and the lynch mobs baying for his blood, following the outing of his sexual escapades, at the other.

Tarun comes across as a sexual predator, on the prowl, in search of his next victim. He used his power and influence over young women half his age. The girl is his daughter’s friend and his friend’s daughter.

However, this should not take away some of the most seminal work that the journalists of Tehelka have done over the years.


Tarun’ s story in itself is an alchemy of desire. He was like most of us: chirpy, fun-loving, naughty. However, post Tehelka, he donned the robe of a saint. He became preachy and started espousing causes that he never stood for and never could.

He was nothing that the nation started acknowledging him for.

He was a normal guy with all the flaws, fallacies and weaknesses.

It was a facade he had to put on for the survival of Tehelka, which was losing money, each year. Only the power exuded by Tehelka could make it viable.

He glorified himself when not due. He “owned” the company when the money came from others. He acted the hero while he was just a team member.The existence of Tehelka is not just because of Tarun.

Tehelka exists because of:

1) The financial contributions of many citizens, celebrities and most importantly [the banker] Shankar Sharma, and,
2) The work of Aniruddha Bahal and Ashish Khetan.

If Tarun’s lofty objective was to start a not-for-profit free and aggressive media enterprise, he could have made all contributors as shareholders. He crowd-funded Tehelka but did not part with ownership. The new shareholders include K.D. Singh, a Trinamul Congress MP, who bought his way into Rajya Sabha.

Any intelligent person should have cried foul then.

It is too late now.


Sometime in 2009 when my fledgling publication wrote against an educational institution with doubtful credentials, we got into a lot of trouble.

Editors like Aditya Sinha (New Indian Express), Vir Sanghvi (Hindustan Times), Shekhar Gupta (Indian Express) personally supported us.

We were going through multiple cases and draining all our resources.

When Tehelka decided to do a story to the subject, we were too happy. Who can espouse the cause of investigative journalism better? Only till we got the questions from the journalist. We realised that it was a story being done on behalf of the institution to throw insinuations at us.

I was very upset because I knew Tarun personally but for him, it didn’t matter. We responded professionally, sticking to facts. I dared them to do a story despite the facts. It was no coincidence that the dubious institution is Tehelka‘s biggest advertiser taking all its back covers.

The story never appeared, because our response didn’t leave any gaps. And the owner of the institution was at the THINK fest in Goa, rubbing shoulders with the then HRD minister Kapil Sibal and gained access to a ministry that should have punished him.

Kapil Sibal later attended a special screening of a movie produced by this institution, and the picture was advertised/showcased all over to unsuspecting parents and students. For me, THINK became a place which conducted an orgy over social issues.

I stopped following it.


This is not just about Tarun.

It is about abuse of power, by a journalist, an editor and a man. A self-styled messiah. Each time, they believe they can get away with unfair demands, they push the envelope further.

People in power with no humility can destroy like nothing else. The desires, fantasies and a coterie is a very potent combination.Tarun is a victim of his own facade, fantasies and greed. He was never what he was portrayed, then and now. He was never a saint and neither can he be a rapist.

He is trapped in a skin not his own. We couldn’t stop people from hailing him as God, as much as we cannot stop them from calling him a devil.

Alas. It is too late now.

* Disclosures apply

** This comment was first posted by the author on Facebook

Photographs: courtesy Karamchand Jena, and Campaign India

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal steps aside as editor of Tehelka

Life yourselves up, dearie, or get into my elevator

POLL: Is sexual harassment rampant in Indian media?

Online petition to protect Tehelka journalist’s privacy


Tarun Tejpal on the five facets of his life

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

A magazine, a scam, a owner & his Goan house

NYT, WSJ weigh on Tehelka‘s Goa controversy

Tehelka promoter says he didn’t turn off FW tap


  1. Mitra

    Thanks – nice read. But I strongly object to your comment about Tarun not being a rapist. Who are you to decide that? How do you know the victim is lying? It is shameful on your part to insinuate without any evidence that the victim of a rape attempt is lying. Please have some more humility and be less confident in your judgments.

  2. Kumar Rakesh

    wonderful piece. sums up the man well without vilifying him

  3. drivingsideways

    What does this line mean?? ” He was never a saint and neither can he be a rapist.” Uh, sorry, he’s pretty much proved that he’s capable of sexual assault. Are some men just never capable of sexual assault no matter what their other flaws are?? Or are you calling the woman’s account a total lie? Please clarify your language/ intent, because from where I stand this reads pretty much like a defense of the indefensible. It reads like “sure he’s done some pretty bad things but he could NEVER have raped someone”

  4. really good piece of writing.

  5. p.balakrishna

    i am sure that all you write is true. But what is the use saying all this now. , . given you long stint at OUTLOOK , you could have exposed this fraud much earlier and your voice would have carried weight.

  6. harkol

    Seminal work he or his magazine has done doesn’t give them a right seek repositories for seminal fluids .

    All other discussions are futile. People aren’t discussing Tejpal’s goodness/badness or madness – they are concerned about crimes against women. And swift, exemplary punishments is what will deter folks in future.

  7. sreeram

    Journalists should stop acting as intellectuals.Drunk Vinod Mehta said the truth in times now.Editors and chief editors have been exploiting women journalists for many decades.The truth has started coming out now.

  8. Nice article on sexual predator, who never done any sting on congress. Invite Talibani. biased media, there journalist are brazan liers, with filth language, there social media activites show. traitors. Got tatse of own medicine. These same peoples teaches morality on media channels. shit

  9. V.sriharsha

    Tarun is a normal person like any of us….yes, with all follies and frailties…but we don’t succumb to such weaknesses where you rape a girl who is of your daughter’s age? Surely, Tarun was no different from Asaram Bapu.

    With each passing day, the picture is emerging from dirty to dirtier in Tehelka rape case. The whole camp of pseudo left- from Stalinists to feminists- stands exposed to the hilt. New revelations are made that show that on the one hand funding for Tehelka was coming from dubious sources that included the mining mafia, on the other the paper fighters against mining mafia like Arundhati Roy were promoted by nine else but Tejpal and his Tehelka. Arundhati was introduced to the literary world by Tejpal, by generously publishing her first novel “God of the Small Things” and then procuring ‘bookers’ prize’ for it.
    Tehelka, a paper with left leanings, had been instrumental in promoting the left leaders from Arundhati Roy to Kavita Krishnan, all of whom repaid the debt they owed to Tejpal through setting up tacit defence for him, which in any case always fell short of a demand for his arrest and more stern action against Tejpal. Making a moral condemnation of Tejpal, her long-time friend and associate, Arundhati failed to tell if it was a different Tejpal till yesterday, who got infected with rape virus at Goa ‘think-fest’! After keeping mum for days together, Arundhati invoked the criticism on moral plank as if not a cold-blooded sophisticated criminal had been at work behind the smokescreen of journalism, but a saint has deviated!
    If Arundhati confined herself to moral critique of Tejpal, Kavita Krishnan more ostensibly defended him against police action, telling Ravish Kumar on Prime Time show on NDTV that police and public have got to do nothing in the matter as the same was an affair between the victim and the offender and that instead an in-house committee on sexual harassment be formed inside Tehelka itself and matter be referred to it. More direct support came from those like Shoma Chaudhary, who are on regular pay-roll of Tehelka, who with all shamelessness defended Tejpal against all odds. Shoma told media that she had talked to feminists like Kavita Krishnan and Vrinda Grover who had told her to refer the matter to in-house committee inside Tehelka. Why did these ‘feminists’ issued advisory to Shoma, who is openly defending Tejpal? Do they also look for their ‘bookers’?
    Tejpal, a magnate in corporate world, had become a wholesome institution over the time. He promoted innumerable left personalities in the media. In fact, Tejpal was acting an organic link between the left leaders that pose to fight the corporate and corporate themselves. This is the dirtiest picture in the whole drama. On the right of Tejpal stood the black forces like the consortium of mining mafia, on his left stood Arundhati and Kavita Krishnan and Tejpal reconciled the two through the institution of Tehelka. What seemed to naked eye as standing in stark opposition to each other, was, in fact, organically bound up together. Arundhati was speaking against mining mafia, Tehelka was promoting her voice, while at the same time Tehelka got huge funds and sponsorships from mining mafia! One would fail to understand it, unless he understands whole dynamics of management of capitalist democracies, the ability of corporate to control mines and bookers at the same time.
    This nexus extended not only to bollywood but upto Hollywood. The day, poor girl got molested by the crocodile of media, lunch was organised for them by Governor of Goa. After registering FIR, the Goa police has seized all material evidence that could have exposed the crucial links to give jolt to the whole corporate establishment including its political state, to prevent it from coming to light!
    All this has been made possible with active assistance of the pseudo lefts- the Stalinists and feminists of various shades- who had been part of the game of chess, controlled by corporate on both sides of it! Without this critical assistance from these pseudo lefts, the chess game cannot go on and on, decades after decades!!

    1. mahesh,pl donot circumlocute the words.what for this ado?if not to dilute legal process.without doubt,offence is made out primafacie.tehalka or no tehelka, is meaning less.

      tyagiji you are superb with words in saying and in not saying things.noisy debates are on with no concern for lady.its certain that tt has big support.i fear media poll of yes/no will end up in tt not guilty.what a sameful conclusion.

  11. ERR

    ‘The Old Boys Club’ showed why they are so cheap on Arnab’ Newshour trying to protect one of their own who was involved in sexual assault, not sexual harassment please, and as atonement was ready to take up 6 months of paid Sanyas ! Journalists hound people from other profession mercilessly, but pardon, your slip is showing 🙂 Now he gives a political twist, aha, and casts aspersions’ on the girl’s morals and wants transfer of his case to Delhi and an easy acquittal thereafter! Eureka !! Q.E.D.:)

  12. Mahesh Peri

    So with my couple of posts on Tarun Tejpal and freedom of press, the torch-bearers are up in arms. The penchant of the lynch mobs to pick and choose a word lets India down. Let me attempt to answer some of your questions.

    – No. Tarun is neither a friend nor a foe. He was a colleague, more than 12 years back. I would have spoken to him not more than three times in the last 12 years. I also know the compulsions of the family of the victim. It is betrayal of trust at its worst.

    – Yes. All of you were eating out of the hands of Tarun. You lapped up everything he had to say, got photographed, shook hands, waited for an invite to his parties. You made him a god. You ignored tens of reasons earlier – the ownership, the parting with Anirudh & Shankar sharma, spiking stories, his dubious advertisers. So, the current outcry by some of you is too late and a facade.

    – Yes. I said Tarun is not a rapist. You bay for blood of Tarun, not necessarily seek justice and peace for the victim. No matter the law and the semantics, As long as the victim doesn’t call it a rape, i wouldn’t. I feel it is violating her if i call him a rapist. It has a dramatically different connotation.

    – Yes. I want Tehelka’s work to survive. I want the excellent journalism that Tehelka did, not to be muddied by those who will see an opportunity to attach motives. As much as I would want Congress to survive despite the Gandhis and BJP to survive despite Modi, I will want Tehelka to survive despite Tarun and KD Singh.

    – Yes. I want Tehelka to survive. For the 100 odd employees who have made Tehelka. I don’t want all those brave journalists to lose jobs because they dared to expose their own. Each of us has been a passive witness to some sexual harassment or misogyny or the other and remained quiet. These guys deserve to keep the jobs more than us, the sile nt and impotent lot.

    – Yes. Tehelka has been funded by the most dubious funding that you can have – owners, advertisers, sponsors. So, the owners, the editors and the management need to change.

    – Yes. THINK FEST is an orgy. It is a place where the wannabes, the favor seekers, the suckers and the Dalals rub their bums with the influential, the powerful and the decision makers. If you have a place filled with Fu—rs and Su–rs It makes for an orgy.

    – Yes. I am worried for freedom of press. The politicians will abuse it. It is my understanding of our political class. Nothing more.

    – Yes. Shankar Sharma would have been a far richer, more successful and more powerful person today, but for Tehelka. To that extent, he deserves greater credit.

    – Yes. I am worried about the information that would be in possession of Goa police. The kind of stories, communication, mails etc. in possession of any Editor can be explosive. They have seized all PCs, laptops, mobiles, Ipads etc. I am worried. They will also make for great many stories. Tighten your belts for the season of leaks.

    Yes. With the lawyers stepping in, i think Tarun would spare no effort to clear the mess legally, even at the cost of the victim. Character assassination and slander would be par for the course in his behavior. So, Arundhati Roy is right. His current behavior is Rape no.2. God bless the girl and give her greater courage. I hope law punishes Tarun. I hope the courts Dont grant him bail. He needs some time in isolation, away from his coterie. Hopefully, after a few years, he will come out a more humble and wise p erson, not drunk with power.

    I hope i am clear. It is my point of view. I am all for a sane discussion. But private messages, bullying, irrational arguments are not my cup of tea. If you strongly disagree, there is an Un-friend button.

  13. ‘Sex is emotion in motion’,said Mae West once.

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