Tag Archive for Tejpal CCTV footage

If you can’t join ‘em, beat ‘em

woman- journalist-sexual -assault

The media trial that sought to vilify the complainant in the Tejpal case would reverse the currently increased receptivity to women’s complaints of sexual abuse and restore the public culture of silence against sexual violence

By Ayesha Kidwai

Over the last one year, since the rape and murder of a young woman on a Delhi bus, the Indian public sphere has been repeatedly rocked by reports of egregious sexual harassment and sexual violence against young women, usually committed upon them in the course of their work. What has been unusual is not the occurrence of these incidents, but the fact that so many of these incidents have become complaints, materialising from the crisp backlit text of email, blogs, and the social media on our computer screens into brutally-thumbed and casually bandied-about complaints and depositions.

Public institution after institution — the judiciary, the media, and academia — has felt the impact of this unanticipated shift. But ever since the problem has gotten off the bus and knocked insistently at the door of whichever institution, one considered to be one’s home, the initial enthusiasm for the bracing winds of social change has abated. Three recent journalistic pieces — one by Manu Joseph in the Outlook and two by Seema Mustafa in The Citizen and the Statesman — show that the strategy to contain the contagion of complaints have evolved in disturbing ways.

Quite obviously, the complainants lie at the heart of every problem, but dealing with them is not an easy task. For one, they do not cower behind the anonymity that is their right under law, but never ever get; for another, even when they have been subjected to the most public violations of privacy, confidentiality, and due process, they do not back away from their complaints. And since the law holds that a survivor is her own true witness in the allegations she makes, the best way to discredit her is to cast her asunder from her words. In Manu Joseph’s view, this separation is effected by what the Grand Hyatt Hotel’s elevator landing saw (i.e. CCTV cameras in the landing areas outside the elevator); from Seema Mustafa’s version of what the Elevator Landing speaks to, a woman’s right to voice even a perceived grievance is denied to her.

While Joseph’s and Mustafa’s pieces have been extensively critiqued in the electronic and social media (most admirably by the Network of Women in Media [NWMI]) for the many breaches of ethical professional journalistic conduct they embody, what allies them most is the lengths that both go to elide the word ‘complainant’, or the more popular word ‘victim’, from the lexicon of their (this-is-not) rape narrative. As Pratiksha Baxi points out, in her Kafila piece, Joseph’s use of Young Woman for the complainant is a reference that does “not evoke the popular image of the innocent rape survivor”.

It is clear that for Joseph, there is only one set of victims here — Tejpal and his family. It is he who has been “destroyed” and it is his family who has been “evicted” from their home, as his wife suffers the “indignity” of defending her husband’s “consensual” relationship. The complainant of course has not suffered in the same way: though she has had to move as well, it is only to a “new home on the outskirts of Delhi”. There is no mention of her mother at all, and her father cannot be told that Tejpal raped her because of his ill-health; in short, no grieving kin or friends. And while she is “in a delicate mental state”, this fragility is not because of the assault she has been subjected to, but because she is “consumed by the intense fear” that her character will soon be put on trial. And lest we begin to empathise with her, we should know that “details of her past are already in the air” i.e. she has a past that needs some worrying about! Comparing this to Tejpal’s ordeal of sitting in a small cell in a Goa jail, we know which one of the two could qualify as the veritable zindaa laash, were it not for Tejpal’s love for his journalistic craft, embodied in his ceaseless striving (through Court petitions) for stationery supplies in jail.

Mustafa’s characterisation of the complainant is even more partial than Joseph’s. Since, unlike Joseph, Mustafa does not appear to have even bothered to meet the complainant (whatever happened to the journalistic code of checking and balancing sources, we wonder), it’s only the woman on the CCTV footage who she describes as the “alleged victim”. This purposely cruel phrase — more so because Mustafa refers to Tejpal (only once) with the contradictory ‘”alleged accused” (note, not “alleged perpetrator”) — discredits every part of the complainant’s deposition, even those incidents that the Elevator Landing couldn’t see, most importantly the act of the rape itself.

The choice of this phrase as the descriptor (although the usage of the term ‘alleged victim’ to mean complainant does exist in US legal parlance, it is novel for Indian journalism) then allows Mustafa the latitude to interpret what the CCTV evidence should mean for the case: since the woman did not show “visible (to Mustafa) signs of agitation”, and because she chose not to take the stairs in the second incident complained about, Mustafa concludes that “the jury is clearly out on this one.”

Both Joseph and Mustafa have stoutly defended their positions by invoking the criterion of objectivity, but one is puzzled as to how that criterion is served by their unwillingness to question information fed to them and which is clearly directed towards a “media trial” of the complainant. Surely, intrepid journalists like these two should have entertained enough skepticism about such information fed to them and carry it over to the copy they generated. Nevertheless, even if we were to assume that every alleged contradiction pointed out in these articles are “facts”, as Mustafa asserts, surely there has to be an understanding that any “fact” is always interpreted as one within a particular context. The context here is one of sexual violence, for which there is ample evidence that the trauma causes confusion, numbness, memory lapses, etc in the victim. In the universe of this discourse, it is no longer a ‘fact’ that recollection and narration of a sequence of events must be instantaneously seamless and fluent for it to be credible.

The burning question is why Mustafa and Joseph have done this? Are they misogynistic ‘supporters’ of Tejpal or fearless worshippers of fact and intrepid journalism? While the latter question may be good for an author’s self-image, and the former one can be dismissed as presupposing too tidy a critique, the real issue is a general failure amongst the professionals to come up with an adequate response to what the changed mood in the middle class demands. Mustafa and Joseph’s failures are just repeats of ones that we have witnessed over and over again, and each profession has plunged into a crisis when a colleague has been accused: How does a ‘senior’ professional approach the fact that some young woman has gone and complained about something that wasn’t even a grievance just a few years ago? After all, it is ”her’ word against ‘his’ and we know him; and while he may have his faults, he has done so many good things, and he is above all, secular. In any case, why are these outsiders, this “bunch of feminists” getting so involved in these matters (which are always so stippled with grey when seen from our side)?

For an outsider feminist like me, the answer is obvious: no one but this bunch knows what to do when a complaint is made from within one’s own kind. When the complaints have been made from within academia or within the judiciary, it is this bunch that has fought for them to be addressed, protested and thwarted the misuse of hierarchical power and its machinery of slander and intimidation, and reminded their professions that the ideal of equality must first be expressed in the creation of conditions conducive to its access. In doing so, they have imbued the phrase “let the law take its own course” with substantive meaning.

It is time for some of our journalist friends who have long written about women’s empowerment to emulate a fraction of what Indira Jaising and Vrinda Grover did in the complaints against the judiciary. Disputing their and other activists’ rights to dispute one’s own article may serve to create a comfortable ‘Us vs. Them’ binary that facilitates self-justification, taking feminists names along with the website-hacking Hindu Right may exaggerate the sense of injury (and dare I say it, “alleged victimhood”), but using the suicide of Khurshid Anwar as a stick to beat all feminists and complainants with does not serve the memory of a man whose commitment to the cause of women’s emancipation and equality has been cited as proof of his innocence.

It may be thought that the fact that the court has already taken a position on the Insightful Elevator Landing renders the current debate irrelevant, but this would be a terrible mistake. Across the spectrum of professions, what is at stake here is the fundamental right of a woman to make a complaint, and the vilification of the complainant that we are witnessing currently targets the all important court of public opinion. The increased receptivity to women’s complaints that we have witnessed in recent times must be reversed, and what better way to do it, but to turn the woman against her word. If complainants are no longer as readily believed, if feminism’s misdeeds begin from supporting such untrustworthy women and end with draconian punishments like the death penalty (which they were in truth the first to oppose), the re-creation of a public culture of silence about sexual violence can perhaps be hoped for. It needs no guessing as to whose interests this aspired to future will serve, but must we be doomed to dream the nightmares of the communal misogynistic right?

Ayesha Kidwai is a professor of linguistics at Jawaharlal Nehru University

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.