Tag Archives: Shankar Sharma

‘Tarun Tejpal was trapped in a skin not his own’

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Former Outlook* publisher, Maheshwar Peri, who now runs Pathfinder Media, the magazine company which publishes Careers 360, on his friend and former colleague Tarun J. Tejpal**.

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MaheshPeri

By MAHESH PERI

The stupidity of our nation gets greatly exposed with the extreme reactions to Tarun J. Tejpal—the cult following of his journalism at one end, and the lynch mobs baying for his blood, following the outing of his sexual escapades, at the other.

Tarun comes across as a sexual predator, on the prowl, in search of his next victim. He used his power and influence over young women half his age. The girl is his daughter’s friend and his friend’s daughter.

However, this should not take away some of the most seminal work that the journalists of Tehelka have done over the years.

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Tarun’ s story in itself is an alchemy of desire. He was like most of us: chirpy, fun-loving, naughty. However, post Tehelka, he donned the robe of a saint. He became preachy and started espousing causes that he never stood for and never could.

He was nothing that the nation started acknowledging him for.

He was a normal guy with all the flaws, fallacies and weaknesses.

It was a facade he had to put on for the survival of Tehelka, which was losing money, each year. Only the power exuded by Tehelka could make it viable.

He glorified himself when not due. He “owned” the company when the money came from others. He acted the hero while he was just a team member.The existence of Tehelka is not just because of Tarun.

Tehelka exists because of:

1) The financial contributions of many citizens, celebrities and most importantly [the banker] Shankar Sharma, and,
2) The work of Aniruddha Bahal and Ashish Khetan.

If Tarun’s lofty objective was to start a not-for-profit free and aggressive media enterprise, he could have made all contributors as shareholders. He crowd-funded Tehelka but did not part with ownership. The new shareholders include K.D. Singh, a Trinamul Congress MP, who bought his way into Rajya Sabha.

Any intelligent person should have cried foul then.

It is too late now.

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Sometime in 2009 when my fledgling publication wrote against an educational institution with doubtful credentials, we got into a lot of trouble.

Editors like Aditya Sinha (New Indian Express), Vir Sanghvi (Hindustan Times), Shekhar Gupta (Indian Express) personally supported us.

We were going through multiple cases and draining all our resources.

When Tehelka decided to do a story to the subject, we were too happy. Who can espouse the cause of investigative journalism better? Only till we got the questions from the journalist. We realised that it was a story being done on behalf of the institution to throw insinuations at us.

I was very upset because I knew Tarun personally but for him, it didn’t matter. We responded professionally, sticking to facts. I dared them to do a story despite the facts. It was no coincidence that the dubious institution is Tehelka‘s biggest advertiser taking all its back covers.

The story never appeared, because our response didn’t leave any gaps. And the owner of the institution was at the THINK fest in Goa, rubbing shoulders with the then HRD minister Kapil Sibal and gained access to a ministry that should have punished him.

Kapil Sibal later attended a special screening of a movie produced by this institution, and the picture was advertised/showcased all over to unsuspecting parents and students. For me, THINK became a place which conducted an orgy over social issues.

I stopped following it.

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This is not just about Tarun.

It is about abuse of power, by a journalist, an editor and a man. A self-styled messiah. Each time, they believe they can get away with unfair demands, they push the envelope further.

People in power with no humility can destroy like nothing else. The desires, fantasies and a coterie is a very potent combination.Tarun is a victim of his own facade, fantasies and greed. He was never what he was portrayed, then and now. He was never a saint and neither can he be a rapist.

He is trapped in a skin not his own. We couldn’t stop people from hailing him as God, as much as we cannot stop them from calling him a devil.

Alas. It is too late now.

* Disclosures apply

** This comment was first posted by the author on Facebook

Photographs: courtesy Karamchand Jena, and Campaign India

Also read: Tarun J. Tejpal steps aside as editor of Tehelka

Life yourselves up, dearie, or get into my elevator

POLL: Is sexual harassment rampant in Indian media?

Online petition to protect Tehelka journalist’s privacy

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Tarun Tejpal on the five facets of his life

How Congress regime stepped in to help Tehelka

A magazine, a scam, a owner & his Goan house

NYT, WSJ weigh on Tehelka‘s Goa controversy

Tehelka promoter says he didn’t turn off FW tap

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Tehelka promoter’s woes just don’t seem to end

K.D. Singh, the controversial promoter behind Tehelka magazine and its shelved Financial World newspaper project, is once again in the news—for the wrong reasons.

Already under a shadow after allegedly buying his way into Parliament last June, and after being stopped at Delhi airport with Rs 57 lakh cash last month, India Today magazine reports that Singh is now under the scanner of the economic offences wing of the Union home ministry.

Reason #1: Singh’s Alchemist group “may have artificially rigged the share prices” in five companies—Usher Agro, Sel Manufacturing, Dhanus Tech, Pyramid Samira and Resurgere Mines.

Reason #2: The stake picked up by two foreign institutional investors (FIIs)—Mavi and Somerset—with links to banned stock market operator Nirmal Kotecha, in Alchemist realty.

The India Today story, authored by former Tehelka business editor Shantanu Guha Ray, says the stock market regulator SEBI is aware of the charges of share-rigging, and is also probing why two Singh companies, Alchemist Limited and Alchemist Realty, did not make mandatory annual and quarterly account disclosures to the Bombay stock exchange (BSE) and the national stock exchange (NSE).

Kotecha had been banned from trading on the stock market in 2009 in a forgery scam involving Pyramid Saimira. (Rajesh Unnikrishnan, an assistant editor of The Economic Times of The Times of India group, and Tatva, a PR firm involved in a joint venture with the Times group, were also banned.)

Shankar Sharma, an earlier Tehelka promoter, too had run into problems with SEBI, and faced charges of manipulating the market with advance knowledge of Operation Westend, a sting operation that caught the then BJP president Bangaru Laxman with his hand in the piejar.

Photograph: courtesy Alchemist

Also read: Moneybag MP says he didn’t turn off FW tap

Tehelka promoters ‘vindicated’ by official papers

First Global, the brokerage promoted by Shankar Sharma and Devina Mehra which had a 14.50 per cent stake in the webzine turned magazine Tehelka, has scored a major victory with official documents reportedly showing that the firm had been harassed by market regulators on trumped-up charges, after the then BJP-led government had been shamed by a Tehelka expose that caught the BJP president taking a cash bribe on camera.

According to a story in Business Standard, official documents obtained from the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) under the Right to Information (RTI) Act show that First Global had no “advance knowledge” of the stock market crash of March 2001 following the Tehelka story.

Titled “Operation Westend“, the investigation by journalists Aniruddha Bahal and Matthew Samuel resulted in the resignation of the then BJP chief Bangaru Laxman, defence minister George Fernandes, and plenty of egg on the BJP’s face.

But it also resulted in a massive witchhunt against the webzine and its promoters.

Documents obtained under RTI show that the brokerage—first Asian firm outside of Japan to become a member of the London Stock Exchange —had no role in hammering down the stock markets. In fact, it did not figure in the list of the top-50 sellers from mid-February to mid-March 2001.

But, because of its links to Tehelka, First Global was stripped off its registration; Shankar Sharma and his wife and partner Devina (a former Business India journalist) were arrested as they were about to board a flight to London (Shankar was arrested two more times); and hundreds of cases were lodged against the duo in an extraordinary act of political vendetta that eventually resulted in the closure of Tehelka online before its resurrection as an offline magazine.

First Global, which “paid more taxes than companies like Proctor & Gamble, Ranbaxy, and Titan“, was also forced to shut shop.

The assault on Tehelka resulting in its closure, was one of two standout cases of media harassment by the former BJP government, whose prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani was recently decorated by India’s leading English language broadcaster NDTV with a “lifetime achievement” award.

“Always in favour of anti-terrorism laws, he abolished Press Censorship and repealed anti-press legislation during his tenure in 1977-1979 as the I&B Minister,” read the citation. Advani is also credited for his Emergency era comment on the Indian press: “When you were only asked to bend, many of you chose to crawl.”

Photograph: courtesy rediff.com