Tag Archive for feminist response to Tarun Tejpal

What do Tejpal supporters choose to see?

Tarun -Tejpal -rape -case

Feminists analyse flaws in the arguments made in support of Tarun Tejpal in media and social networks by those who have illegally watched sub judicial CCTV footage

By Team FI

Two well known feminists, Vrinda Grover and Kavita Krishnan have responded to an ongoing campaign in media and social networks that is seeking to malign the survivor in the Tarun Tejpal rape case.

Tarun Tejpal, who was the editor of Tehelka magazine, is alleged to have sexually assaulted his junior journalist in a lift in a Goa Hotel. The past few days have seen subtle and direct statements that seek support for Tejpal based on the CCTV footage of the survivor and Tejpal outside the lift. While senior journalists Manu Joseph and Seema Mustafa wrote articles dissecting the incident in favour of the accused, well known film maker Anurag Kashyap accused the survivor of not telling the truth – they all were basing their opinions on the CCTV footage they saw. The campaign coincides with a bail application made to the Supreme Court.

By Vrinda Grover
The CCTV footage has been shown to many carefully identified and selected persons in the media and influential and powerful persons, by family and close coterie of friends of Tarun Tejpal. This is in violation of the law and the order of the court. Yes, the family has a right to defend Tarun Tejpal, but not by committing unlawful and illegal acts.

The young woman journalist does not have a copy of the CCTV footage. Only the Prosecution and the defence have copies. I have not seen the CCTV footage. No one who has taken a public or private position asking for justice for the young woman journalist and asked for a fair trial, not prejudiced or overawed by the campaign conducted by Tarun Tejpal gang, has seen the CCTV footage. We are not supposed to see that footage because it reveals the identity of the woman journalist. That is the law. Can we leave some decisions to the court or do the English writing glitterati want to usurp the role of the Court, much like the khap panchayats.

Yes, we must debate issues and cases of public importance. I do not support a gag order of any kind. Not even the one imposed by the Delhi High Court in favour of the former Supreme Court Judge in the case of the law intern.

The entire campaign hinges on the ‘young woman’s character’, which when decoded means the same old thing, her past sexual relationships

On each occasion the friends and family of Tarun Tejpal have orchestrated a media campaign against the young woman journalist. Please note, the modern day, English speaking or rather writing, khap panchayats have ruled in favor of Tarun Tejpal on precisely the same grounds. The woman complainant appears ‘normal’, it must be consensual. Bingo!

What is the “reasonable conduct” of a survivor of rape or sexual assault or sexual harassment or sexual abuse? Jurisprudence in India will have to be engendered, to understand and comprehend this.

Is it a coincidence that these articles appear at a juncture when a bail petition will be moved for Tarun Tejpal in the Supreme Court? I firmly believe that under-trials have a right to bail. However, the jails are overcrowded with an under-trial population that is disproportionately POOR. Where the accused persons can threaten witnesses, or tamper with evidence or use their position to cause prejudice to a fair trial, their liberty is constrained through denial of bail. We do not have a witness-victim protection mechanism that offers any real security to the complainants and so at times bail should be refused.

We live in a real world where power, influence and position, can and does manipulate and subvert and truth. It appears that at times these results can be achieved even when the person is in custody. Even as the law stands by, as a mere spectator, indifferent to its promise to protect the woman’s dignity.
Also to all my friends and fellow travelers who are secular activists, anti-communal campaigners and civil libertarians, I have not overnight become naive, nor have I succumbed to some victim’s story. I am thinking with the same clarity, mental agility, and political astuteness, with which i engage with the Ishrat Jahan case, or Soni Sori, or the Muzaffarnagar gang rapes. In my struggle against fascism, I do not prioritize rights or victims. At the core of my politics lies freedom of all, including women.

By Kavita Krishnan
Mr Anurag Kashyap,
You say “I have seen the CCTV footage too and none of what the girl says about Tarun Tejpal is true”…Who showed you the footage? I and most people haven’t seen the footage – rightly so, because legally we can’t. So is the footage being shown to selected individuals in the media, the film world?

Does the footage show what happened inside the lift? You cite Manu Joseph’s piece in Outlook. That piece, that so insidiously builds sympathy for Tejpal, says about the footage:”Nothing in the young woman’s body language indicates sexually potent conversation…They are not walking hand in hand, rather Tejpal is leading her and she is following him…they are separated by the whole width of the lift, which is about five feet. There is an unhappy tension between them as they walk out….Also there is not a moment in the footage that shows the young woman exhibiting anything resembling physical affection for Tejpal.”

How do I break this to you – rape survivors don’t behave like women in the Hindi films…They don’t rush out of lifts yelling Bachao

Yes, they act ‘normal’. Yes, they try to appear as though nothing happened. The more so when the violator is someone they know, trust, and who has power over them (is a family member, family friend, boss, teacher etc…), when the consequence of making the violation public might mean loss of a job, loss of cherished friendships, relationships.

No, raped women don’t usually use martial arts on their violators, they try to get the trusted person violating them, to stop, they hope the problem will go away, they agonise long and hard about the consequences before they complain. If the father of a friend rapes a woman, if a husband of a friend molests someone, the survivors worry about the impact of the incident on their friend, their friendship.

They hope, against hope that the person will apologise, and stop. And yes, in my experience, most survivors of gender violence forget or misremember small details – that’s because of the stark, traumatic impact of the LARGE detail of having been raped, of being told that to keep their job they must now subject to sex with the boss, the more so if the rapist is not a stranger but someone known and trusted.

Manu Joseph writes about the ‘fingertips’ sms that it could have been the words of a drunken man who thinks he’s flirting. Yes, arrogant rapists have been known to boast that the woman they raped enjoyed it.

Honey Singh’s songs tell us of that mindset quite eloquently. Did the footage as seen by Joseph suggest any flirtation on part of the woman?! No? Tejpal’s own letter admits the woman’s ‘clear reluctance’, and that he invoked his being her boss. He claims he withdrew the latter remark with a clear, cogent statement. If he wants us to believe that’s true, then he clearly wasn’t so drunk as to not recognise that she was unhappy and felt imposed upon. AFTER this exchange, how could anyone believe that a sms by Tejpal saying ‘fingertips’ is ‘flirting’?!

The many respondents on your post Mr Kashyap, who say ‘We know the complainant, impossible for her to be raped’ are displaying classic, textbook victim-blaming tactics. No, it’s not ‘impossible’ for ANY woman to be raped – her being modern, emancipated, strong (even learning martial arts) can’t be a guarantee that she won’t be raped – especially by someone she knows, trusts and who has power over her.

The good part here, Mr Kashyap, is that your macho image of ‘man who makes film to inspire women to take up martial arts to resist rape’ has been taken down – by you yourself. You now stand exposed as a common or garden variety misogynist who thinks it’s the complainant who is ‘the accused’ and who is on trial.

Tejpal manipulating public opinion to sway judge

Tarun-Tejpal

By asking to make the CCTV footage public, Tejpal hopes to sow suspicion about the complainant’s motive and her character

By Kavita Krishnan
Tarun Tejpal’s demand to make the CCTV footage public is, in fact, a call to the general public to be voyeurs, examine the woman (complainant), place her smile, her demeanour and her gait on trial, ready to declare her guilty if her conduct does not conform to the 70s Hindi film stereotype of the ‘raped woman’.

Tejpal wants the public (through media) to try and declare him innocent. He wants to use the media, including social media, to sow suspicion about the complainant’s motive and her character. A step towards this has already been taken by his friends who have sent mails with her photos asking – “Check out her pose! Is she traumatised? No! Is she happy? Yes!”

We, in the women’s movement, can only hope that the courts will not behave like the ‘court of public opinion’.

For, if a woman is brutalised, her bloodied body/corpse available as incontestable proof of her victimhood — in conformity with those Hindi movie images we just talked about — then a court MIGHT hand out the death sentence based on ‘public opinion’. I use the word ‘MIGHT’ because here too, for a Bhotmange or a Manorama or a Soni Sori, the brutalised body is no guarantee of public opinion or courts perceiving the heinousness of the crime.

In cases where the victim doesn’t have a brutalised body to display to gratify voyeurs — the ‘peanut-crunching crowd’ — the courts are again all too likely to mirror public opinion and declare that the woman doesn’t really look or behave ‘raped’ enough.

Even when courts appear to be ‘sensitive’ to women, there’s a catch. There is one landmark verdict of the Supreme Court which holds that a conviction can take place even on the ‘sole testimony’ of the complainant. However, what the verdict actually said was: “It is conceivable in Western society that a female may level a false accusation as regards sexual molestation against a male”. However, “A girl or a woman in the tradition bound non-permissive society of India would be extremely reluctant even to admit that any incident which is likely to reflect on her chastity had ever occurred” and therefore isn’t likely to lie about rape! The detailed argument in this verdict has sickeningly sexist imaginings of why ‘Western’ women are likely to lie about rape

Not surprisingly, this notion of ‘chaste Indian woman’ versus ‘loose Westernised woman’ is what Tejpal’s defence is relying on. In his bail plea, lawyer quoted this verdict to argue that she could not be raped, the sex must be consensual because the complainant is “a liberated, emancipated modern woman”.

So, women can only HOPE — against hope — that courts will stand aloof from public opinion, and will deliver justice on merits of the case rather than on jaundiced notions about how raped Indian women are supposed to behave, as opposed to the loose, liberated, modern women…

Tejpal claims there’s no evidence against him, that the charges are flimsy. The charges are by no means flimsy as he suggests but rather, there’s an embarrassment of weighty facts — straight from Tejpal’s own words — enough to make this a very serious case.

Tejpal claimed in an email to his friends that the whole thing was “an incredibly fleeting, totally consensual encounter of less than a minute in a lift (of a two-storey building!)”. However, based on the CCTV footage, the charge sheet establishes that the lift took much longer than usual to make the two-storey climb, certainly much longer than the ‘less than a minute’ claimed by Tejpal.

This unwarranted time in the lift the first time and the footage of him taking her into the lift on a second occasion (a second encounter which Tejpal’s email to friends didn’t mention) is certainly grounds for invoking Sections 341 (wrongful restrain) and 342 (wrong confinement) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Moreover, his own ‘apology’ email established his admitting to invoking his status as her boss — though he claims to have retracted it. The very fact that he admits to invoking it to overcome what HE calls her ‘clear reluctance’, goes to show a strong basis for invoking 376(2) (f) (person in position of trust or authority over women commits rape on such women) and 376(2) (k) (rape of a woman by a person being in position of control or dominance over the woman) IPC.

And the testimony of several of the complainant’s colleagues that she told them immediately after the first episode that she was assaulted, and of course her own complaint that has remained stable and unchanged while Tejpal’s has mutated time and time again, are pretty strong grounds for invoking Sections 354 (assault or criminal force on woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 354-A (outrage modesty).

However, though these are undeniably strong grounds, the matter is sub-judice and it is for the court to pronounce him guilty or not.

Finally, Tejpal claims that his arrest is “an early sign of the inherent fascism of the right-wing that will target its detractors in the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is India is imbued with no tolerance for dissenters and critics, of whom I certainly am one.”

I know neither Mr. Tejpal nor the complainant personally. I know them both from their work as journalists and public intellectuals. And I can say: Mr Tejpal, you don’t have to be male and a senior editor to be a ‘dissenter and critic’ against communal politics. The complainant — a young journalist who has done courageous and forthright journalism — is no less a dissenter and a critic. And we, who stand up for her rights, are no less dissenters and critics.

Tejpal trivialises the anti-fascist struggle by trying to use it to demand impunity from accusations of rape. Being a dissenter and a critic doesn’t provide us with some kind of AFSPA-type shield to being prosecuted for rape.

Can we please keep the word ‘draconian’ confined to laws like AFSPA, MCOCA, sedition and so forth? The new rape law is NOT draconian

The new law very correctly expands the definition of rape and provides graded punishment for different types of sexual violence; and it very correctly states that consent cannot be presumed without a clear YES, ‘by word or gesture’ from the woman. These are not draconian provisions. Ten years, for the compound crimes Tejpal is accused of, is not necessarily excessive. It should jolt us that Tejpal’s friend can refer to what he is accused of as a ‘mere pass’. Even a ‘pass’ is now sexual harassment. And holding a woman against her will in a closed space, disrobing her and forcing your finger or tongue inside her private parts is not a ‘pass’ — and it’s downright scary that some can think of it as such.

The same pal of Tejpal’s said, chillingly, that if this is rape, 50% of editors and CEOs will be in jail for rape. Do editors and CEOs (Tejpal seems to think these are all male) really see it as their entitlement to do these things to their woman employees?! If so, it reminds me of the sense of entitlement that Bihar landlords used to expect, as their due, from Dalit woman workers in their fields in the 1980s. Those bosses who think women have to submit to such treatment must indeed be in jail.

I am willing to discuss, in a general context, the need to retain some discretion for the judge in sentencing, but I’ll do so in a context of concern for justice for women, so that courts should not be deterred from convictions and discretion should not move from the judges to the cops. And I’ll discuss these when we have some evidence that the new law is indeed acting against women’s interests in this regard. To use those concerns and debates of the women’s movement to paint Tejpal as a victim is abhorrent.

To those who accuse feminists of defending a draconian law to play ‘media darlings’, allow me to point out that the women’s movement has consistently — on the same media — articulated and defended the UNPOPULAR positions against draconian provisions of death penalty and lowering of the age of juvenility and raising the age of consent.

We have interrupted the media’s self-congratulatory narratives on Tejpal or Asaram to remind them of their own double standards on Manorama, Kunan Poshpora, Soni Sori, countless Bastar rapes, rape of Dalit women in Haryana and so on. The same activists who make use of a few minutes in the media to counter the insidious campaign of vilification that Tejpal and his pals are carrying out against the complainant, have also spoken — again in the face of abuse and hate speeches — against the hanging of Afzal Guru and the conviction of Shehzad in the Batla House case. We have made the women’s movement’s dissent and outrage heard against the custodial killing of the December 16 rape accused Ram Singh inside Tihar jail.

I am one of the handful of people who have, after carefully examining available evidence, rather than the feverish imaginings of a sexist media campaign, questioned the obnoxious, appalling Aarushi verdict, which was a ‘media trial’ if ever there was one. A secular friend, who today accuses me of participating in media trials of ‘secular’ men accused of rape, was only too happy to repeat the prejudiced misinformation peddled by the media in the Aarushi case, warning me to stick with public opinion rather than my own assessment and conscience in that case!

I have also spoken AGAINST ‘potency tests’ for Asaram and Tejpal. I hold potency tests to be just as demeaning, unscientific and humiliating as a two-finger test for rape survivors.

What about bail for Tejpal? I believe bail is a right that all undertrials are entitled to. I, along with many others, have thanklessly struggled for bail for NOIDA workers, Maruti workers, held on far flimsier grounds. Soni Sori got bail after years of incarceration. Many of my own comrades languish in jail without bail on cooked-up charges relating to mass movements led by them.

In the case of those accused of heinous crimes, courts tend to deny bail irrespective of how flimsy the charges are. And this has nothing to do with the new rape law. It has been the case long before last year. Tejpal, therefore, cannot claim he’s being denied bail because of political vendetta or a ‘draconian’ law. Rather, if at all he gets bail, it will be because he has a posse of lawyers and he is viewed as ‘respectable’ and ‘respected’, unlike your average worker or slum-dweller or common man/woman accused. And if he gets bail, I would not oppose it.

The very phrases ‘media darlings’, ‘BBM-ing feminists’ and so on are redolent of rank sexism. We do the cause of democracy and secularism a grave injustice by resorting to this manner of campaign. Tejpal is entitled to a defence, surely. But we cannot allow the complainant to be subjected to a moralistic, voyeuristic pillory on the pretext of his defence. She is being put through hell, has had her mindspace and professional world turn from a zone of comfort and achievement into an ugly space of abuse and jeers, not because of her own actions but because she made the hard decision to complain about rape by her boss. This is the tough, painful world of rape survivors.

For those of us who ask why we activists cannot remain ‘neutral’, survivors and complainants get through this hell by relying on the support of the women’s movement. So, yes, we are not going to stop supporting rape complainants because the accused happens, on occasion, to be part of the secular or democratic camp. That’s because democracy includes women’s rights.

Tarun Tejpal’s Press Statement 18.2.2014:

“If conclusive proof was needed of the political vendetta that has been
unleashed against me, under the guise of a sexual molestation
investigation, it has been emphatically provided today. In a blatant
attempt at twisting and concealing the facts, the Goa police while
filing a 3000 page highly spurious charge sheet, has not presented or
handed over the most crucial piece of evidence in this case, the CCTV
footage of the incident

In my first and only press note of November 22nd 2013 I had urged,
“the police to obtain, examine and release the CCTV footage so that
the accurate version of events stands clearly revealed”. I said this
at a time, from Delhi, when I had neither accessed nor seen the
footage. But since I was the man on the spot I knew the truth of what
had happened.

It is violative of due process, to not make all collected evidence
available to the accused at the time of filing the charge sheet. In
fact, receipt of the footage is what we have been impatiently waiting
for since the last three months. This duplicity is in keeping with the
sinister and motivated political vendetta that is being pursued.

I have been in jail since November 30th simply because the goa police,
clearly acting under the orders of their political bosses, have
refused to release this crucial footage of the relevant days, 7th and
8th November. This entire case hinges on the 130 and 45 seconds (as
per the charge sheet) of contested time which can be brought to light
via the CCTV footage. The goa police know their fabricated case will
collapse the moment the footage is revealed and compared with the
‘testimony’ of the alleged victim, on the basis of which the Goa
police filed it’s FIR under draconian provisions.

As it were, I viewed the relevant footage of both days whilst being
‘held’ in police custody and the footage clearly validates me. The
fact is most of the officers in the crime branch know there is no
case, and have said as much to me. Even so the IO has been pursuing an
agenda spelt out for her by her political masters, totally violating
the principle of police neutrality.

I’m afraid what we are witnessing here is an early sign of the
inherent fascism of the right wing that will target its detractors in
the most sinister and underhand ways, using all the government
machinery at its disposal. This is a warning shot across the bows of
all liberals and opponents of communal politics. It’s a crying shame
that a major party that is bidding to rule the great pluralism that is
India is imbued with no tolerance of dissenters and critics, of whom I
certainly am one.”