Tehelka: She was under attack, yet she remained a journalist-activist

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Television channels were running after accused senior journalist Tarun Tejpal at the Delhi airport and inside the flight which he boarded to reach Goa on Friday afternoon. Everywhere, there is a sensation about breaking news. The man is caught speaking in the hidden camera of some news channel and Tejpal is seen smiling and making gestures. It looks Tejpal is apparently trying to show a lighter side of his but why are we so engrossed with this man?

Instead, let's for a moment concentrate on what the woman journalist said about the alleged sexual harassment inside a life in Panaji earlier this month in her latest statement. It has a lot to offer to our senses and make us feel deeply what is happening around us.

[Read full statement here]

The gutsy woman thanked for all the support that she has received after the alleged harassment but at the same time expressed her shock over allegations that she is doing all this as a pre-election conspiracy!

"The struggle for women to assert control over their lives and their bodies is most certainly a political one, but feminist politics and its concerns are wider than the narrow universe of our political parties. Thus, I call upon our political parties to resist the temptation to turn a very important discussion about gender, power and violence into a conversation about themselves," she said.

The strong statement she made compels each one of us to think

What a hard-hitting delivery by her! She has proved that she isn't just another helpless soul who would silently perish but instead took up the fight. A few months ago, a young photo-journalist in Mumbai said rape is not the end of the world after she was gangraped inside an abandoned mill while on duty. The women in India are changing. The Tejpals must remember that.

For those raising allegations that the victim put her honour at stake just because someone else's political interests need to be served or those raising her motivations and technical questions about 'sexual molestation' and 'rape', the woman has ready answers.

To the first group, she says: "Suggestions that I am acting on someone else's behest are only the latest depressing indications that sections of our public discourse are unwilling to acknowledge that women are capable to making decisions about themselves for themselves" while for the second, her sharp answer is: "Perhaps the hardest part of this unrelentingly painful experience has been my struggle with taxonomy. I don't know if I am ready to see myself as a "rape victim", or for my colleagues, friends, supporters and critics to see me thus. It is not the victim that categorizes crimes: it is the law. And in this case, the law is clear: what Mr. Tejpal did to me falls within the legal definition of rape."

Spot in observation, isn't it?

The journalist's indomitable spirit is seen when she says about the new legal definition of rape. She makes a very significant observation when she says that "rape is not about lust or sex, but about power, privilege and entitlement" and that the new law should be applicable to everybody irrespective of the financial status and not just to "faceless strangers."

The woman also speaks about the earthly things and not just about the legal and feminist terms. She says she has been brought up by her mother since her father's health has not been good for years now. She says: "I am fighting to preserve nothing except for my integrity and my right to assert that my body is my own and not the plaything of my employer. By filing my complaint, I have lost not just a job that I loved, but much-needed financial security and the independence of my salary. I have also opened myself to personal and slanderous attack. This will not be an easy battle."

This is the language of the modern middle-class of India for which money matters, but what matters even more is a sense of empowerment propelled by a strong sense of self-respect.

The woman's hard-hitting words put each of us who live in this country and breathes its air in a state of worry and embarrassment. Worry because any woman member from any of our family can also fall prey to a predator any time and embarrassment because at a time when a woman is bravely fighting all odd, questions are being made about her political or other motivations or how she remained "normal" even after such an incident.

The woman deserves a pat, not for anything else but just for penning words that even a person in a happy state of mind might take time to produce. But she continued to play her part as a journalist and an activist for women's rights, even when she herself was at the receiving end of the story.

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