PANAJI/NEW DELHI: The Goa government ordered a probe on Thursday into the alleged sexual assault by Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal on a woman journalist colleague as a major controversy erupted over the magazine's attempts to treat it as an internal matter.
Demands for a quick probe into the incident that happened in a lift in a five star hotel in Goa about 10 days ago mounted with journalist bodies asking for prosecution into the allegations of "grave sexual assault".
"There ought not to be any attempt to cover up or play down this extremely serious incident," the Editors Guild said in a statement.
Tehelka's managing editor Shoma Chaudhury, to whom Tejpal last night wrote saying he was "recusing" from work for 6 months admitting to "bad lapse of judgment", and the magazine came under attack for maintaining that it was an internal issue.
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who conferred with top police officials, ordered a preliminary probe after prima facie opinion that there seems to be substance in the letter written by the victim to her office.
The case was handed over to the crime branch of police which has got the footage of the close-circuit television in the hotel, DIG OP Mishra said. They have also sought the copy of the complaint filed by the girl from Tehelka.
Probably the incident took place in the lift, the chief minister said, adding the victim's letter indicates that there was an attempt to rape.
Women activists and journalist attacked Chaudhury's claim that it was an internal matter and demanded that law take its course as it was a matter of crime.
Congress calls for action
Congress on Thursday condemned the alleged sexual assault said action should be initiated against anyone found guilty of such an offence, irrespective of one's position.
Congress also raised concerns over such "black sheep" existing in all four pillars of democracy and called for corrective measures.
"On the issue of sexual assault, the Congress party's stand is clear that anyone found guilty of such an offence, action should be initiated against him ... This is condemnable. It should be condemned," party spokesman Meem Afzal said.
"Be it a anyone big or small, the demand for action remains the same...If black sheep are there in the four pillars of democracy, who are not common people but guide them, then it is a very serious issue. Corrective measures will have to be taken. All will have to come forward in this fight," Afzal said.
He lamented that in the recent past, such incidents of sexual assault against women have been reported against people in high positions in the legislature, executive and judiciary and now against someone in the media, saying this is a "serious issue"
The Congress leader also lamented that when there is such a complaint against a politician, the issue of blown out of proportion and more publicity is given to them.
Afzal said even journalists were shocked at the incident and called for action into the incident.
BJP calls for Tejpal's arrest
BJP demanded that Tejpal be arrested after lodging of FIR against him for allegedly sexually assaulting his colleague. "I would want the home minister to ensure lodging of an FIR and immediate arrest of Tejpal," BJP spokeswoman Meenakshi Lekhi.
Tehelka, of which Tejpal is the founder editor, had done the 2001 sting operation in which the then BJP President Bangaru Laxman was caught accepting bribe.
The party also accused the media of adopting double standards in its coverage of the case of alleged snooping on a woman by Narendra Modi government in 2009 and Tejpal's case.
Lekhi alleged that the incident of "virtual rape" of a journalist by Tejpal was being "blacked out" by media and also wondered why the National Commission for Women, Press Council of India and certain other agencies were silent.
"Tejpal has been found involved in criminal activity but it was ignored by the media. The victim and her father as well as the criminal are from the same fraternity (media). A blanket is sought to be put on the case," she said
She said, in the Gujarat case, the woman sought anonymity but some papers have even published her name and photograph.
BJP alleged that this is a wake up call for all. "A political vendetta is taking place. The involvement of Congress and its surrogates in the matter needs to be looked into," Lekhi said.
Hitting out at Tejpal, BJP alleged that through his "atonement" letter, he has sought a "paid holiday" of six months.
"Can atonement for a criminal act like this be granted? If it is granted, it should take place within the jail premises. Even though Tejpal has admitted to having committed the crime, sending him away from Tehelka is not a befitting punishment at all considering the serious nature and assault on his own woman staffer," Lekhi said
On Wednesday Tejpal had accepted "misconduct" against a woman journalist and offered to recuse himself from the post and the office for six months.
"I have already unconditionally apologized for my misconduct to the concerned journalist, but I feel impelled to atone further," he had said.