As former Tehelka editor Tarun J. Tejpal faces imminent arrest for the alleged sexual assault of a junior employee at a conclave organised by the magazine, two veteran editors—Aroon Purie of India Today and Vinod Mehta of Outlook*—write about the callow Chandigarh boy who branched out to become a brand.
At India Today, Tejpal was in-charge of the books pages and at Outlook, he was the features editor who briefly became managing editor.
The latest issue of India Today has Tarun Tejpal on the cover with the headline “Disgrace” (above), while Outlook has a cover-corner, on “Tehelka after Tarun”.
Aroon Purie, editor-in-chief of India Today:
“Tarun Tejpal worked in this magazine 25 years ago for six years. Dare I say I liked him. He was a talented writer and knew it. In today’s terms, a ‘real dude’.
“Even at the age of 25 when I interviewed him for the job of a senior sub-editor he had an intellectual swagger about him and unabashed literary ambitions…. When he resigned in July 1994, Tarun was honest enough to say that there ere “only so many essays and reviews I can churn out before ennui drowns me.
“Everyone has their own theory on why a man of such intellect, talent and success ended up being charged with sexual assault. Mine is a simple one. It is the ‘God’ complex which I have seen in so many talented men. They reach such heights of success that they live in their own world and think the normal rules of social behaviour don’t apply to them, neither do the laws of the land.”
Vinod Mehta, editorial chairman, Outlook*:
“TarunTejpal was my deputy at Outlook for nearly six years. Professionally, his contribution to the magazine was immense….
“To say I do not endorse Tarun’s conduct would make me sound like a lunatic. How can I, even tangentially, defend sexual molestation? Tarun has committed a horrific blunder and compounded it with clumsy efforts to vilify the victim….
“The abuse of power in the media, especially in the higher echelons, is rampant. Editors sexually exploit and harass trainees and junior staff with a crudity which is unbelievably cynical. The threat is always the same: if the girl “cooperates” she not only keeps her job but enjoys rapid promotion. If she doesn’t she is shown the door.
“It is the worst kept secret in our profession but it dare not speak its name. Some of the biggest luminaries in Indian journalism stand accused. Who they are is known both inside and outside the trade. The shameful silence needs to be broken.”
* Disclosures apply