I was perhaps 18 when I first met Mr. Tarun Tejpal. He was an icon to us in those days, just after the infamous “Operation West End” and the match fixing scandal in cricket.
He was the standard to match for the journalists of our generation, and for once, the auditorium was packed willingly with student journalists keen to hear him talk. He walked in, wearing his trademark kurta, an imposing figure and charismatic.
Strangely, I do not remember much of what he said. He spoke about the integrity of journalism and why it was important for the government to have good ‘watchdogs’. Those were the terms we used on a daily basis on those days. “The media is the watchdog of the government.” “A journalist must be unbiased and give all sides of the story.”
Tejpal and his magazine Tehelka faded into the student days, and we became jaded with the reality of journalism. We realised we were mere tools for propaganda and our ideas of being the watchdog were edited out.
But a small part of hope was finally extinguished with the recent scandal surrounding Tejpal. More importantly, his response and reaction to the entire situation.
For someone who has supposedly constantly fought against injustice and corruption, his arrogance in the face of the accusation strips away some of the glory of his past accomplishments.
It is disheartening to see a magazine like Tehelka, which has long positioned itself as the ‘true’ spokesperson of the people, to say that “what happens in our office is none of your business.” For Tejpal to assume that his standing excuses him from any actual punishment.
In that one statement, he became yet another power-drunk businessman / politician who believes that he is above society’s laws. That his actions do not deserve the same reaction as the rest of the commoner.
What is the difference between Tarun Tejpal and Salman Khan, who was accused to running over and killing several people sleeping on the pavement? It is said that Salman Khan has made ‘retribution’ and is taking care of all the families of people he killed. It is said that he is taking care of their jobs and education. Yet, we demand for justice.
What is the difference between Tejpal and countless politicians whose actions have been brought to the forefront by the very same man who now claims a ‘6-month absence as the editor’ is punishment enough for his actions.
Perhaps he never was the man that we all admired. Perhaps he has fallen from the heights he achieved, dizzy on his own power.
But his fall marks an end of the purity of journalism in a manner that perhaps can never be restored.