Tehelka's Shoma Chowdhury quits over sex assault controversy

November 28, 2013 6:13 AM

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Tehelka's Shoma Chowdhury quits over sex assault controversy

The managing editor of a top Indian magazine has resigned days after her boss was accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague.

Shoma Chowdhury of Tehelka magazine said it was a "damaging time" for the publication after the allegations involving its editor, Tarun Tejpal.

Mr Tejpal himself has stepped down from his position at Tehelka and is the subject of a police investigation.

Ms Chowdhury is the sixth journalist to quit the magazine amid the controversy.

The alleged incident happened earlier this month in Goa where the magazine held an annual conclave attended by newsmakers and celebrities from around the world.

Standing aside last week, Mr Tejpal said a lapse of judgement and a misreading of the situation "led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for".

Mr Tejpal has been summoned to appear before police in Goa for questioning on Thursday after the female colleague began co-operating with the police inquiry. He has not been charged.

Separately, a court in the Indian capital, Delhi, is to decide on his bail application on Friday. Under Indian law, an individual can seek bail in anticipation of an arrest based on the accusation that they have committed a non-bailable offence.

Police in Goa launched their investigation last week on the basis of an email from Ms Chowdhury which described the magazine's course of action after the allegations against Mr Tejpal came to light.

Correspondents say the magazine's initial response - which was to temporarily remove Mr Tejpal from the editorship - was widely criticised for having double standards.

Ms Chowdhury insists its response was in keeping with what the journalist who made the allegation wanted, but it has also set up a committee to investigate the incident.

"I would have liked to continue at Tehelka to see us through this dark time, but I am no longer sure whether my presence is harming or helping Tehelka. I deeply regret any inadequacies or lack of clarity I may have displayed in my leadership," Ms Chowdhury said in her resignation letter early on Thursday.

Ms Chowdhury said since the "devastating allegation" was first brought to her notice on 18 November, she had taken a "series of actions in response to this complaint", including the setting up of an anti-sexual harassment committee.

"There were only two days to act on the complaint before the story broke in the press. Post this, things have been misconstrued and have snowballed exponentially in the media, based on half-facts and selective leaks," she said.

Ms Chowdhury said she had been accused of attempting to cover up the incident and for "not standing by my feminist positions".

"While I accept that I could have done many things differently and in a more measured way, I reject the allegations of a cover-up because in no way could the first actions that were taken be deemed suppression of any kind. As for my feminist positions, I believe I acted in consonance with them by giving my colleague's account precedence over everything else," she said.

Ms Chowdhury said that he was resigning from her post as she did not want "questions raised about my integrity to tarnish the image of Tehelka".

Source: bbc.co.uk

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