An Indian view on history, current affairs and politics

June 1, 2023

Fall of Tarun Tejpal, Pharaoh of Tehelka


Tarun Tejpal, the editor in chief of Tehelka magazine can very well be described as one of the pharaohs of the Indian mainstream media. Having earned money, fame, repute and awards for a brand of investigative journalism that mainly depended on hidden camera sting operations, Tejpal was surely at the pinnacle of success when an alchemy of desires overcame his senses. Tejpal and Tehelka, his brainchild, was cited as everything that was right about Indian media. Tehelka was seen to be fighting for poor, oppressed, minority, women rights, corruption and promoting the idea of secularism and equality. Curiously though at the receiving end of most of their exposes was Country’s main opposition party the BJP and other Hindu Nationalistic groups.

There are several issues from the Tejpal episode that actually prove that he and Tehelka symbolize everything that is wrong with Indian media today. That a chief editor can sexually molest a colleague didn’t surprise many in media. Going by the statements of prominent voices and Tejpal defenders, this is quite common. What did surprise many was that the young journalist spoke up. The defenders of women rights who’ve been unforgiving, relentless almost brutal when it came issues of rape and molestation charges against anyone outside media and ruling party were themselves accepting it as a common issue in their field. And yet, their misconduct never got exposed thanks to code of omerta. The image of a strong independent female journalist took a beating as well now that we know more often than not they suffer the sexual exploitation quietly and do not act the way they exhort other women to act in such case. The actions of Shoma Chaudhary, managing editor of Tehelka and a prominent feminist exposes the hypocrisy in their talk and their actions. As someone who was quick to demand resignation of CBI chief over a crass comment on rape was in reality doing her best to shield a rapist.

Going by the account of victim’s letter, Tejpal’s daughter accepted she had seen him doing the same thing to a women when she was 13. If this is true then Tejpal is a predator who has been sexually exploiting women secretly while championing women rights in public for years. From stories of killing articles for corporate favor to running sting on opposition for government favors, Tehelka has been accused of all. With investigations in full swing chances are more skeletons will tumble out of closet. It may or may not be the end of Tehelka but the episode certainly signals the demise of pharaoh.