Shoma Chaudhury resigns from Tehelka; meets NCW member

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NEW DELHI, November 28:  Under fire from various quarters, including the media, for the way she handled a junior colleague’s sexual harassment charge against Tehelka founder-editor Tarun Tejpal, managing editor Shoma Chaudhury decided to resign from the post early Friday morning. Deputy Editor Ramesh Sharma was appointed acting Executive Editor in the evening.

Ms. Chaudhury announced her decision to sign out from the weekly magazine through an email to her colleagues sent at 5-52 a.m. Conceding that several things could have been done differently and in a more measured way, she rejected allegations of a “cover-up” and not standing up to the “feminist positions” she has otherwise taken on such issues. “No way could the first actions that were taken be deemed suppression of any kind. As for my feminist positions, I believe I acted in consonance with them by giving my colleague’s account precedence over everything else.”

Detailing her response to the “devastating allegation” brought to her notice on November 18, Ms. Chaudhury said after the first steps to immediately address the complainant’s “expressed needs, the procedures of setting up the anti-sexual harassment committee was begun. There were only two days to act on the complaint before the story broke in the press. Post this, things have been misconstrued and have snowballed exponentially in the media, based on half-facts and selective leaks.”

Ms. Chaudhury also underscores that despite the efforts taken in solidarity with the complainant, “my integrity has repeatedly been questioned by people from our fraternity’’ and, in fact, by the public at large. “I do not want questions raised about my integrity to tarnish the image of Tehelka, which it has done in the past week.’’

Stating that it was not her nature to “give up midway through a challenge”, Ms. Chaudhury said she would have liked to continue at Tehelka to see it through “this dark time, but I am no longer sure whether my presence in harming of helping” the magazine.

After resigning, Ms. Chaudhury visited the office of the National Commission for Women (NCW) to present her case. The NCW member in charge of the case, Shamima Shafique, told The Hindu that there can be no justification for the absence of an internal complaints committee in Tehelka. Ms. Shafique also found fault with the three colleagues the complainant confided in. “Why did they remain silent for so many days?”

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