India literature fest drops prominent editor accused of rape

A literary festival run by a top Indian newspaper group cancelled on Monday an invitation to Tarun Tejpal, a former leading editor of an investigative magazine charged with raping a colleague after a public outcry. -- PHOTO: ESPLANADE/SHAILENDRA PAND
A literary festival run by a top Indian newspaper group cancelled on Monday an invitation to Tarun Tejpal, a former leading editor of an investigative magazine charged with raping a colleague after a public outcry. -- PHOTO: ESPLANADE/SHAILENDRA PANDEY

NEW DELHI (AFP) - A literary festival run by a top Indian newspaper group cancelled Monday an invitation to a former leading editor of an investigative magazine charged with raping a colleague after a public outcry.

Tarun Tejpal, the founder and editor of Tehelka magazine, had been asked to attend the Times of India Literature Carnival as part of a panel titled "The Tyranny of Power".

But the invitation was withdrawn after it triggered protests on social networking sites from people angry that one of the country's biggest-selling newspaper organisations had invited Tejpal to participate in the festival in early December.

"We have asked Tarun Tejpal to drop out of the TOI (Times of India) Litfest. We've got a great programme & we don't want it hijacked by extraneous noise," tweeted columnist and senior Times of India journalist Bachi Karkaria.

Tejpal was granted bail in July after spending months in jail on charges including sexual harassment and rape of a junior colleague during a magazine-sponsored event last year in the western holiday state of Goa.

The woman, who has quit Tehelka magazine since the scandal broke and who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police she was molested twice in the lift of the hotel where the event took place.

Tejpal, who was arrested last November, denies the allegations.

The case has gripped the nation's elite and made front-page news in India amid a wave of outrage over a series of rapes, especially because of Tejpal's prominence as one of the top journalists in the country.

The savage gang-rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman on a bus in December 2012 stoked public awareness about widespread violence against women in the largely sexually conservative nation.

"Did you really need so much 'extraneous noise' to help you make a good decision? Moral compass haywire?" tweeted blogger Anjana Anjaani after the announcement that Tejpal's invitation had been withdrawn.