The Tarun, the Tejpals, the Tehelka and my suspicions.


What was he thinking? No really. If you have read the original mails that brought the Tehelka scandal to light, you would be hard pressed to side with Mr. Tarun Tejpal, just because of his profusely gurgitatory English. Also, because he admittedly assaulted the victim TWICE and yet wants us to believe it was a lapse in judgement. Now seriously Mr. Tejpal, who do you think you are? MS Dhoni handing the ball in the last over to Ashish Nehra? No sir, nobody is allowed a mistake twice.

The first time you do it, it is a mistake. The second time is a choice. Except, well, when you are America...

The first time you do it, it is a mistake. The second time is a choice. Except, well, when you are America…

By the way, the above link to the mails is the entire mails chain, in the now famous Tehelka scandal. Sometimes, people who break news, break louder than the news they break.

Tehelka had come into the limelight with the match fixing scandal that shook up the entire cricketing world and made Ajay Jadeja into a reality show participant. Poor Hansie Cronje died shortly after this and whenever India won or lost, it was supposed to be the fault of match-fixing. Obviously, Sreesanth was too young when this happened in 2000; which is why he got caught for the same thing in 2013; which was pretty stupid, if you ask me.

The other thing Tehelka introduced to Indian media, were Sting Operations. Suddenly, anybody with a camera and a news channel was out to catch others red-handed. After being a web magazine and then a tabloid and finally a magazine, Tehelka gave alternative and many-a-times, refreshingly objective views on many popular and under-the-radar stories. For anybody who has read more than a Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey and Facebook walls, Tehelka is a spark in the dark publication. Or should we say, was?

Because, today it finds itself in the dumps. Its Managing Editor, Shoma Chaudhary resigned after 6 other senior journalists resigned. For those of you who remember anything apart from the fact that sex was involved in this whole case, everything started at the ThinkFest, which, people like Robert DeNiro and Amitabh Bacchan had attended.

From left to right: AB, RD, TT. TT saying, "I held her in the elevator like this!"

From left to right: AB, RD, TT.
TT saying, “I held her in the elevator like this!”

For a festival titled the ThinkFest, it was very poor thinking by Mr. Tarun Tejpal to lose all his fortunes essentially because he couldn’t keep his pants on.

Tarun, in Marathi means young. In accordance with the fallacies of youth, Mr. Tejpal got his family’s recently earned fortunes to come crashing down. While the fateful elevator scaled up, fate was smiling upon him, planning his downfall and that of the magazine, Tehelka.

Soon after the sex scandal broke out, news starting pouring in of how there had been alleged blackmailing of various corporates to fund ThinkFest 2013. A few days in, there are massive allegations of briefcase companies, insider trading, illegal funding and whatnot. This report alleges that the entire Tejpal family profited by selling individual shares worth Rs.10 at Rs.13,189 to make massive profits for themselves. Shoma Chaudhary, was also involved in this.

While Tehelka started as a robust investigative journalism portal, it soon ran into the practical obstacle of funding itself. Advertisers were reluctant to come in, the government was obviously against it. Tehelka turned to donations from celebrities like Aamir Khan, government officials like Kapil Sibal, Shashi Tharoor. Funded by the people, it enjoyed a long but frugal run. While employees sometimes had their salaries delayed by 2 months at a time, the Tejpals and Shoma Chaudhury were enjoying profits in crores.

Straight out of a Gulzar film. With an Abbas-Mustan supertwist!

Straight out of a Gulzar film. With an Abbas-Mustan supertwist!

And imagine losing all these crores earned over so many years, just because Mr. Tejpal was too Tarun to keep his pants on!

Which brings me to my point. I smell something fishy. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but there seems to be something engineered about this entire scandal. Before you read on ahead, let me jump gun and assuage your doubt. No, I am not saying Mr. Tarun Tejpal should be let off for sexual misconduct.

Now, to the point. I think, the sexual scandal was the feeder for the more explosive news about the Tehelka financial scandals. Today, news is no longer its own marketing. Today, even great news has to bundled into a neat package if it has to be believably consumed by the populace and if it has to have a long run in the media. Vested interests also try to give their own angles to the story. In such a scenario, how could one expose the Tehelka financials in a way that the public does not soon forgive and forget? Using a woman to stir up already burning fires of the pain of crimes against women seems to be a good way of making a story stick.

Am I saying the woman who got molested was a planted spy to catch Mr. Tejpal off guard and then make false accusations against him? No. I do not. For a woman of her standing, there would hardly be any motivation to allow herself to get embroiled in such a scandal.

But, it does not allow me to think that a person of Mr. Tejpal’s standing, enterprise, intelligence and exposure could think that he could get away without consequence with a crime as severe. There has to be a more pressing explanation to that incident. One that does not involve exonerating the perpetrator or downplaying the pain of the victim. For nothing can take away from the fact that this was a shameful sexual assault by an older, more powerful person on another.

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