An institution cannot be punished for the actions of an individual. And that is why I believe TEHELKA must survive. As a publication, TEHELKA holds a special place in the Indian media landscape, especially at a time when the mainstream media is either sold out or is peddling one lie after the other in an attempt to make it the truth. Amid all this, TEHELKA has always fought for equality and justice through its journalism.
I was deeply disturbed by the allegations of sexual harassment against TEHELKA’s founder and it did throw up several questions about the human psyche itself. I wondered how can the founder of an institution that has always held such principles be caught in the middle of a storm like this? Why can’t we inculcate the values that we claim to uphold? Having said that, I feel it is unfair to let one incident wipe out TEHELKA’s robust body of work. No institution deserves the kind of scrutiny that TEHELKA has been subjected to because one individual faltered.
Be it the TEHELKA case or the sexual harassment case against retired Supreme Court Judge AK Ganguly, it is the individual accused who should be punished. Is the entire judiciary being persecuted for the actions of one of its members? Are we raising questions on the credibility of the entire judicial system? In both cases, we should let the law take its own course instead of the media playing the jury.
TEHELKA’s reportage has always asked pertinent questions of the political and bureaucratic establishments. It has been wide-ranging, in-depth and, above all, hard-hitting. It took a pro-marginalised stand and gave voice to those who the mainstream media would often turn its back on. Through its stories on gender violence, environment, land rights and forest rights, TEHELKA has been persistent in its fight for justice and equality for all. It has put the spotlight on several issues that were blacked out by the mainstream media. For instance, TEHELKA’s stories on the plight of displaced communities have been poignant. Today, the publication stands out primarily because it bases its reportage solely on hard facts, and has often provided a sharp perspective on key issues. In doing so, it has managed to create greater awareness and understanding of several issues in civil society. I strongly believe that only those who understand values of democracy can invest in such interventionist journalism. Only those whose work is driven by values of equality and justice can do so.
Reading TEHELKA over the years has been an eye-opener for us activists. And so we often ask our students to read the magazine in order to get an insight into some of the key challenges that our country faces today.
Ever since the TEHELKA controversy broke out, THiNK, the annual festival of ideas, has also received much criticism for being a profit-making venture. Personally, I think the festival was incredible. We live in such a polarised society that more often than not it becomes difficult to meet and interact with people from different walks of life. THiNK was a platform that made it possible; it gave people a chance to be exposed to different worldviews, to voice their concerns.
These are trying times for the institution. I would like to appeal to TEHELKA’s staff and its readers to continue to have faith in the publication. If you believe in the values that TEHELKA has stood for in the past, stand by the institution. If its journalists are committed and can continue to report with the kind of diligence and persistence they have shown so far, it will silence its critics eventually. I wish TEHELKA’s journalists courage.
As told to Nupur Sonar