“Now you are in Goa; drink as much as you want,” Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal was reported to have said in 2011 at the Goa ‘Thinkfest’ – an event the magazine marketed as India’s premier intellectual event. “Eat and sleep well with anyone you think of, but get ready to arrive early because we have a packed house.”
The remark made by Mr. Tejpal, who is now facing criminal investigation following allegations that he sexually assaulted a woman employee twice at the ‘Thinkfest’ earlier this month, has returned to haunt him.
Even before this, ‘Thinkfest’ has long been dogged by controversies over ethics, which have again surfaced in the wake of the criminal charges against Mr. Tejpal.
Shortly before ‘Thinkfest 2013’ began this month, members of the civil society group the ‘Goan Society’ held protests outside the venue dubbing it “Stinkfest”.
“We are against the fest because of dubious corporates sponsoring it. Then they [Tehelka] call activists like Anna Hazare and Medha Patkar to speak at the event. So it becomes an image laundering exercise for these corporates,” said Sidharth Karapurkar from the group.
Two years earlier, the festival had its first brush with a more public controversy. In 2011, the magazine was accused of rejecting a report filed by its own reporter, Raman Kripal, on Goa’s powerful mining lobby, allegedly because it wanted the government’s support for the ‘Thinkfest’.
Mr. Tejpal had defended the magazine saying the reporter had been asked to leave because of “poor performance” and that “we actively refuse sponsorship from Goa’s mining companies.”