Any such committee is redundant now: Butalia

Over half-a-dozen eminent personalities approached by Tehelka to be part of the in-house Sexual Harassment Enquiry Committee have refused to do so. Consequently, the committee — announced on November 21 in the wake of outrage after a journalist working with the weekly magazine charged her editor Tarun Tejpal with sexual harassment — is yet to be set up.

Noted feminist-publisher Urvashi Butalia — who according to the Tehelka announcement was to preside over the committee — is among those who have refused to come on board. On Tuesday, her publishing house, Zubaan Books, announced on the Twitter that she is not on the committee.

According to Zubaan Books, Ms. Butalia wrote to Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury on November 22 saying that any such committee that “was planned was redundant now that due process under the law had begun.”

As news broke about Ms. Butalia refusing to be part of the committee, Tehelka said several other people who had been contacted had likewise refused. The others are co-founder of HAQ: Centre for Child Rights Enakshi Ganguly, actor Sharmila Tagore, retired judge Leila Seth, veteran journalist Prem Shankar Jha, feminist historian Uma Chakravarti and human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover.

According to a Tehelka statement, “there is a strong sense amongst lawyers and activists that, given that a criminal enquiry by the Goa police was started on November 21 itself and a criminal case has now been filed, an enquiry committee would not have any legal standing.” The complainant had also been asked to suggest some names for the committee but she had not replied till date.

Maintaining that Tehelka was committed to having the complaint investigated by a committee, the statement said efforts were still on to persuade those contacted at first to reconsider. Meanwhile, Tehelka also contested reports that it had not responded to the National Commission for Women notice.

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