Epic Battle I: Tehelka v The Rest

The story so far:

From November 4-6, Tehelka, the weekly magazine that prides itself on independent, public-interest journalism, hosted a Thinkfest in Goa. Even before the festival, ‘theatre veteran’ Hartman de Souza wrote an article in Hindustan Times implying that Tehelka boss Tarun Tejpal had killed a story on mining irregularities (you can read that story on FirstPost.com). This, predictably, resulted in a rejoinder from Tejpal accusing de Souza of a ‘hearty distate for facts’ and, equally predictably, a rejoinder to the rejoinder by de Souza that appeared on Kafila.org that accused Tehelka of a ‘self aggrandising jamboree’ that accepts sponsorship from a ‘corrupt’ Goan government.

The battle opened up to include new players. In The Deccan Herald  Devika Sequeira wrote of how Tehelka’s publisher approached Goa chief minister for sponsorship.

After several preliminaries and high-power calls—some of them from Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser Ahmed Patel —”Tehelka” publisher and chief operating officer Neena Tejpal met Chief Minister Digambar Kamat in Goa weeks ahead of ”Think 2011”, the magazine’s ‘festival of ideas’ that was held here from November 4 to 6. 

In the Wall Street Journal blog Lucy Archibald wrote of the Thinkfest’s ‘bitter aftertaste’

Goa’s first ever Thinkfest was a festival of ideas — something between Jaipur’s much-loved literature festival (although one of its frontmen was overheard saying the ThinkFest had nothing on them) and the globally successful TED Conference. Organized in collaboration with Newsweek and Tehelka, in the plush surroundings of the new Grand Hyatt Hotel, last weekend speakers galloped through a diverse range of subjects, circling and then returning to a preoccupation with India’s future position in the global pecking order. more

And in the New York Times blog (IndiaInk), Lydia Polgreen asked a question already being asked on Twitter and social media: had Tehelka sold out to India’s mining barons and real estate tycoons?

When Tehelka held its first conference, in 2006, it was called “Summit of the Powerless” and took place in an auditorium at Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. The schedule was filled with earnest discussions of Naxalism, farmer suicides and the desperation of the urban poor.

Last weekend, India’s most famous crusading investigative magazine hosted a very different sort of event: a glitzy and glamorous celebration of ideas called the Think Festival, held at a five-star resort in the tiny, sun-kissed state of Goa. more

And here is Tehelka managing editor Shoma Chaudhury’s response to the ‘malicious lies’ by de Souza, Sequeira, WSJ, NYT et al

After long years in the trench, Tehelka has learnt a couple of tough lessons about truth-telling. The first is to acquire a tough hide. The second is to hold one’s peace and let idle chatter slide over one’s head: let the work do the talking.

If we spent all our time combating the spurious conspiracies that float around us, we would still be stuck in 2001, in a time warp, trying to explain to people that we were not “ISI stooges”, “stock-market scamsters”, “defence dealers”, “Dubai-funded gangsters” or any of the fantastic things people accused us of being. more

Also, see Hartman de Souza’s first Hindustan Times article here

See Tarun Tejpal’s rejoinder, also in HT, here

See Hartman’s de Souza’s rejoinder in Kafila to Tarun Tejpal’s rejoinder here

See the illegal mining story that appeared in FirstPost.com here

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