Arundhati Roy Breaks the Liberal Conspiracy of Silence Around the Tehelka Rape

November 26, 2012

On Nov 23, the police charged Tarun Tejpal, the founder and editor of Tehelka, India’s most radical, liberal magazines, with the rape of a journalist working for him. Click here for more.

arundhatiWhile a large section of the prominent people and feminists who’ve campaigned for women’s rights alongside Tejpal and supported Tehelka have been silent,  author Arundhati Roy has chosen to break that silence despite her friendship with Tejpal.

She said the evidence against Tejpal suggested  accused him of vilifying the survivor and dismissed the suggestion that the Tehelka editor was a victim of a political frame-up.She said Tejpal’s attempt to question the survivor’s version and the suggestion that he had been set up because of political reasons amounted to “rape number two: the rape of the values and politics that Tehelka claims to stand for”.

“Several lawyers have told me that according to the new law, the nature of Tarun’s sexual assault amounts to rape. Tarun himself has admitted to his crime in his own emails and text messages to the woman he assaulted,” Roy wrote on the web edition of Outlook magazine.

The author said, “Outrageously, it is being suggested that Tarun is being ‘framed’ for political reasons — presumably by the right-wing Hindutva brigade. So now a young woman who he very recently saw fit to employ, is not just a loose woman, but an agent of fascists? This is Rape Number Two: the rape of the values and politics that Tehelka claims it stands for, and an affront to those who work there who have supported it in the past. It is the hollowing out of the last vestiges of integrity, political as well as personal. Free, fair, fearless. That is Tehelka’s definition of itself. Where is courage now?”

Roy said she was reluctant to comment on the rape charge but felt impelled to speak up realizing that her silence was going to be misconstrued. “I have been hesitant to say anything because of the howling media circus. It seemed vile to kick a man when he was down, especially when it seemed pretty clear that he would not get off lightly and that punishment for what he had done was coming his way. But now I am not so sure. The lawyers have moved in, and the big political wheels have begun to spin. My silence is liable to vested with all sorts of absurd meaning,” she said.

Roy was indignant with Tejpal also for taking support from mining barons for ThinkFest: the much-celebrated annual gabfest Tehelka holds in Goa where the alleged crime took place. “The ThinkFest was sponsored by a consortium of mining corporations, some who are themselves accused of misdeeds on a gargantuan scale. Ironically, in other parts of the country, the sponsors of ThinkFest have contributed to creating a climate in which scores of adivasi women have been raped and murdered, and thousands of people have been imprisoned as well as killed,” Roy said.

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