What Vinod Mehta said between brackets
Disturbing admissions from Tarun Tejpal's former boss
This screenshot of a passage from Vinod Mehta’s new book, Editor Unplugged, is being shared widely on Twitter. It’s about Mehta’s impression of Tejpal and refers to the period when the latter served as his deputy at Outlook. This throwaway passage, in parenthesis, contains facts that just don’t compute. Let’s break it down.
‘All I know is Tarun was known to use his official position to hit on interns and juniors for both consensual and presumably non-consensual carnal favours.’
So his boss suspected—or heard—Tejpal was sexually assaulting women who reported to him and he, what? Waited for an official complaint, while continuing to let his deputy abuse his position? Pretty much. The Supreme Court’s 1997 guidelines, which puts the responsibility of preventing sexual harassment on the employer, was very much in place when Tarun Tejpal was at Outlook. Far from being proactive about the safety of Outlook’s juniors and interns, Vinod Mehta actually sounds relieved that no official complaint was ever made on his watch.
‘I got a whiff of his style while he was working with me. But since no formal complaint was brought to my notice we did not have a crisis in the office.’
Phew! Wouldn’t want a crisis over rape in the office getting in the way of reporting real news.
‘His alleged manic libido could possibly be the result of what his friend William Dalrymple calls ‘an exceedingly charming sexual aura which women find difficult to resist.’’
We can agree that what Mehta refers to as ‘presumably non-consensual carnal favours’ a court of law would consider sexual assault or rape. Rape is not the result of a manic libido or the side-effect of possessing an irresistible sexual aura—actually, you can argue that a rapist has an eminently ‘resistable’ aura. It is widely acknowledged that rapists seek power more than sexual pleasure. Painting a rape accused out to be some kind of office Casanova is not just misguided—it blurs lines in a way that shields perpetuators.
(For his part, William Dalrymple has denied ever saying this.)
‘On a live TV debate on Times Now I attempted, not to defend his conduct, but to say a few words on his genial nature and editorial competence. I was shouted down vehemently.’
Why is it that when a respected male figure is accused of rape, people feel the need to point to something completely random in defense, like his charity work? Tejpal is not facing charges of surliness and incompetence—he’s facing charges of rape. Mehta is likely referring to Arnab Goswami’s The Newshour debate. The Shoutiest Show On TV is famous for not letting anyone finish their sentences but in this instance, maybe it was the right call.