The first revelation is the sexual assault amounting to rape, as defined in the amended Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code, by Tarun Tejpal, the editor and part owner of Tehelka magazine, on one of his employee woman journalists. There has been a reaction from many well meaning individuals and social activists that this is an attempt to target the courageous journalism of Tehelka. However, in the aftermath of this revelation there have been many other revelations which show that not only was this not a one off affair and that Tejpal has sexually assaulted many other women and destroyed them earlier but that Tehelka has been killing many of its investigative stories after coming to an understanding with the Corporations who had come under the scanner of its journalists. Moreover, the company that runs Tehelka is majority owned by a businessman who has an empire valued at over Rs 10,000 crores extending from real estate to steel to a poultry chain on the basis of which he is known as the "Chicken King" of India. On the strength of this he has been elected to the Rajya Sabha as a Member of Parliament on a Trinamool Congress ticket and is the main person for the party in the Northern region. For the past three years Tehelka has been organising the Think Fest in Goa, during which this year the sexual assault took place, which has been sponsored by big Corporations and has had many reactionaries and dubious personalities as its invitees, even though it has been touted as a "forum where the brightest brains worldwide participate". This means that with time, Tehelka had lost its initial thrust for courageous journalism that exposed many wrongdoings of the establishment and also supported the fight of the oppressed for justice as it began compromising on its ideals to garner funds from Corporations and businessmen.
The second revelation is that of a media sting operation carried out on some of the candidates of the Aam Aadmi Party which showed them as being ready to accept heavy cash donations from unnamed sources without receipts for rendering favours to them. Even though it has been proved that the sting video is a doctored cut and paste job and the Election Commission has given the party a clean chit, the danger of such attempts at buying the party members will be ever present.
The common point at issue here is the financial sustainability of the fight for justice. Whether it is people centred journalism or political activism, the costs of carrying out these activities and the sustenance of those carrying them out are very high these days. Now the people in whose interest these are carried out are so poor and oppressed that they do not have the wherewithal to either buy the products of such journalism or contribute to such political action. In most cases, therefore, such anti-establishment journalists and political activists have to live on the margins and eke out a precarious existence. Tehelka and the Aam Aadmi party tried to break this and make a splash in a big way. Tehelka succeeded for some time but eventually it had to make compromises so as to secure funds from Corporations and businessmen who have the money and began slipping on its ideals. The Aam Aadmi Party too has been able to initially get a fairly good amount of funds but they are not enough to sustain the operations of the party for a long period of time. Even now there are a huge number of people who are working voluntarily for the party and all the funds garnered are being spent on the huge costs of the election campaign. For a long drawn struggle against the establishment, because there is very little likelihood of the Aam Aadmi Party coming to power in the Delhi assembly even if it does manage to win a few seats, though that too is doubtful, there has to be a more sustainable financial plan than just subsisting on a wing and a prayer as it is doing now. Many of those who have donated to the party have done so in the fond hope that it will indeed come to power or at least get a significant number of seats and if this does not materialise as is most likely then there will be a great fall in the donation rate. Most other parties that began from humble and principled roots too have faced this problem of long term financial sustainability and like Tehelka they have fallen back on donations from Corporations and businessmen in lieu of favours done to them. Thus, for the Aam Aadmi Party too, given the haste with which it has been formed a similar danger exists.
Even when the goals are not as ambitious as they are for the Aam Aadmi Party, as in the case of our own organisation, we cannot carry out our modest programme of action without external funding support as the people we work for and with are so poor that they can barely make ends meet. Therefore, our programme of action currently is not as radical as it could be and is definitely much less than what it has been in the past when we were operating almost exclusively without institutional funding and with great sacrifices being made by the activists. However, after some time such frugal and financially uncertain living becomes impossible and so many left for other more financially secure professions and those of us who are left are taking much more money to do the work we used to do earlier almost for free. Aiming big for radical social change is all very fine but given the fact that the poor do not have money and the purse strings are firmly in the hands of the capitalists, it is a little naive to expect that the latter will loosen them without extracting their pound of flesh in the form of a jettisoning of their ideals and radicalism by those who ask them for money!!!