The woman at the center of a sexual assault scandal involving a top Indian investigative news magazine has publicly pleaded with her editor to halt what she called intimidation and harassment.
Police have begun investigating the editor of Tehelka after the woman claimed she had been sexually assaulted twice in a hotel in the holiday state of Goa during a conference organized by the magazine last month.
Tehelka, which pioneered undercover sting operations in India, has been embroiled in the scandal since Wednesday when it was leaked that editor Tarun Tejpal had agreed to take six months’ leave for “misconduct.”
In a statement to local media late on Saturday, the woman said a member of Tejpal’s family had visited her mother’s house in New Delhi on Friday evening and asked her mother to “protect” the editor.
The relative also “demanded to know who I was seeking legal help from and what I wanted as the result of my complaint of sexual molestation by Mr Tejpal,” the statement said.
The woman said the visit had placed “tremendous emotional pressure” on her family at an “intensely traumatic time.”
“I fear this may be the beginning of a period of further intimidation and harassment,” said the statement, carried on the front pages of several Indian newspapers yesterday.
“I call upon all persons connected to Mr Tejpal and his associates to refrain from approaching me or my family members,” the statement said.
Tejpal, 50, is the founding editor of Tehelka, known for its hard-hitting investigations into sexual violence against women and gender inequality, as well as into corruption and other lawbreaking.
With the media newly sensitized to sexual assault cases after a string of widely publicized gang-rape cases this year, the incident has been front-page news and the magazine has been accused of hypocrisy.
The fatal gang-rape of a student on a New Delhi bus in December last year touched off sometimes violent demonstrations and a long period of introspection in India about the treatment of women and rising crime against them.
In an e-mail to staff of the New Delhi-based magazine, the editor admitted that “a bad lapse of judgement, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for.”
However, Tejpal has denied the assault allegation and offered to cooperate with police.
As part of their preliminary investigation, police in Goa have sent a team to Delhi to question magazine staff and Tejpal.