Dec 02, 2013

    India's fallen crusader rides into prison cell

    LESS than a fortnight after he rubbed shoulders with Nobel prize-winning novelist V. S. Naipaul, Indian editor Tarun Tejpal spent a night in less illustrious company. He was locked up in a cell in Goa with two men accused of murder.

    Tejpal, who has been accused of sexual assault by a young female colleague, had his bail application rejected by a court in Goa on Saturday. His own fame and popularity have come back to bite him.

    Judge Anuja Prabhudessai ruled that Tejpal was a powerful figure who could try to subvert evidence. She cited the fact that a member of Tejpal's family had called on the accuser to persuade her to withdraw the charges against him.

    The young woman, who worked as a reporter in Tejpal's publication Tehelka (The Storm), said she was assaulted during ThinkFest, an event attended by Naipaul and American actor Robert Di Niro.

    Ironies abound. Close family ties that first put the woman in touch with Tejpal were also in play when his family appealed to her to drop the charges. After the incident, she confided in Tejpal's daughter.

    And after Tejpal sent her an e-mail message apologising for the incident, she shot back: "Not only did you lash out at me verbally for telling (Tejpal's daughter), you also sent me a text message the next morning saying 'I can't believe you went and told her even the smallest thing'...Tarun, I can't believe you think molesting an employee your daughter's age, who is also your daughter's friend, is something you'd describe as 'the smallest thing'."

    Tejpal, 50, India's best-known journalist, famous for his crusades against corruption, was then arrested.

    His promises to leave the accuser alone were rejected. The judge said: Many defendants in sex-assault cases promise to marry the victims when their backs are to the wall - only to retract later.

    Tejpal was then sent for medical examination before been bundled into a cell with common criminals.