Editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal
Categories News
Frequency Weekly
Circulation 110,000 (2008)[1][2]
First issue 2003
Country India
Based in Greater Kailash, New Delhi[3]
Language English, Hindi
Website tehelka.com

Tehelka is an Indian weekly political magazine under the editorship of Tarun Tejpal known for its undercover exposé style of journalism. Its cover price is Rs 20 per issue. The publication began in 2000 as a news website, Tehelka.com. It transitioned through a printed newspaper format until it became a magazine in 2007.

It first received local prominence in 2001 when it exposed match-fixing in Indian professional cricket. The same year, an investigation it carried out on defence procurement, called Operation Westend, received international attention, and led to the resignation of Indian Defence Minister.[4][5]



In 2001, Tehelka.com exposed the alleged culture of bribery at the Ministry of Defence (India) (MoD) by setting up a bogus London-based company, and contacted MoD officials for selling thermal binoculars to the Government of India.[4][6][7] Tehelka claimed to have filmed Bangaru Laxman (the secretary of the ruling party BJP) taking a bribe for helping the bogus company in procuring government contracts. During the process, Tehelka also met Jaya Jaitly, the head of Samata Party and a close aide of the defence minister George Fernandes. There was an outcry when the scandal broke, and George Fernandes resigned although he was not accused of taking bribe. Laxman also resigned, while Jaya Jaitly accused Tehelka journalists of being Pakistani agents and raised doubts over the authenticity of the tapes. The tapes were sent to UK for forensic examination, and were confirmed as genuine.[6]

Fernandes returned to power soon afterwards, and the inquiry set up to investigate the charges halted upon the resignation of the sitting judge, while his replacement performed an ineffectual job lacking in focus. The government turned the tables on Tehelka with an investigation into its conduct.[5] The main financial backers of Tehelka were made targets of investigations from the customs, the police and the tax authorities. By 2003, the number of salaried employees in the company had reduced from 120 to 1, and the company was practically ruined.[6] The meagre budget of Tehelka, then a startup media firm, was exhausted by legal expenses facing a Commission of Enquiry. According to the Editor Shoma Chaudhury, Tehelka decided to bow out of the new Commission of Enquiry, after Justice Venkatswami was replaced with Justice Phookan.[8]

In 2003, Tehelka was relaunched as a weekly newspaper, funded by 200 founding subscribers and other well-wishers who each donated Rs 100,000 (more than $2,000).[4] Rs 3.6 crore (Rs 36 million) was so raised. Its original business plan included television, radio and book publishing ventures.[2][2] According to Rediff.com, the newspaper initial print run of 150,000 copies had shrunk to 30,000 within six months.[2] An issue of Tehelka is priced at Rs 10; sales are underpinned by a subscription offer of Rs 300 a year (48 issues)[1] and negotiating deals with credit card companies, hotels and airlines to push Tehelka among their members.[2]

The investigations against the MoD officials were revived in 2004, when the Congress-led government came to the power and handed over the matter to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

In 2007, Tehelka once again underwent a transformation, and shifted to a regular magazine format. In September 2007, it came up with a Hindi news based web portal "Tehelka Hindi". In October 2007, it once again captured widespread attention for an elaborate sting operation that claimed to have captured on hidden camera several perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots admitting to horrendous crimes, and revealing the riots to be part of a well-planned conspiracy that had state sanction. In october 2008 Tehelka launched its first fortnightly Hindi magazine. Right now Tehelka has four highly successful editions of its Hindi magazine - three regional editions and one national.

Major stories

Operation Westend

Operation West End was a sting operation aimed to expose the corruption underlying India's large defence contracts. The original investigative piece by Tehelka in 2001 targeted several members of the then ruling coalition, the National Democratic Alliance, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party's Atal Behari Vajpayee. It showed several political figures, as well as army top brass, colluding to take bribes[9] that approached 4% of orders totalling hundreds of crores in order to approve defence contracts.[citation needed] Tehelka also accused the MoD officials of accepting alcohol and services of the prostitutes,[6] although the journal itself was criticised for the procurement of protitutes.[10] Indeed, in September 2001, Tehelka's editor-in-chief, Tarun Tejpal, was charged with "immoral trafficking" for offering prostitutes to the MoD officials during the sting operation.

The minister in charge of Defence, George Fernandes of the Samata Party, resigned after the tapes were made public, but he was reinstated later. Part of the tapes show the treasurer of his party talking about accepting bribes of 1 crore or more from arms dealer ex-Naval officer Lt-Cmdr Suresh Nanda, son of ex-Chief of Naval Staff Admiral S. M. Nanda. However, George Fernandis was later absolved from this as even the CBI under UPA couldn't find any tangible evidence against him.

Initially the government, instead of acting on the evidence, accused Tehelka of fabricating allegations.[11] However, five years later, in October 2006, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed charges against George Fernandes, former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sushil Kumar, and others in the Barak missile case, claiming that there was reasonable basis to suspect corruption and criminal conspiracy.[12] In March 2008, the Nandas were arrested.[13] Fernandes was interrogated in May 2008.[14]

The Truth: Gujarat 2002

The Truth: Gujarat 2002[15] was an extensive report on the 2002 Gujarat violence published in its 7 November 2007 issue, was based on a six-month long investigation and involved sting operations. It alleged that the violence was due to the connivance of the state police as well as the Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi. The sting operation once again led to partisan criticism and raised questions on journalistic ethics.[16]

Jessica Lall case

Tehelka carried out a sting operation following Manu Sharma's release. This uncovered details of the witness coercion process, and alleged that money was being paid directly from Venod Sharmas offices to some of the witnesses. .[4] Venod Sharma was directly mentioned by several people, such as a friend of the (now expired) eye-witness Karan Rajput:

Surendra: I saw him receiving money at Okhla. Question: Where at Okhla? Surendra: From Sharma's place. In front of Okhla depot there is a building. [Venod] Sharma owns entire building. We used to collect money from there itself. Question: How much money? Surendra: Whatever we needed. Question: Whatever you say? Surendra: Whatever we demand. We used to get 20-25 thousand every month just like that. His number is in mamu's ( Karan Rajput) diary.

Tehelka in media

The Tehelka exposé has been documented time and again through various media sources. Veteran Indian journalist, Madhu Trehan, has penned an entire book on the expose and its aftermath. The book, Tehelka as Metaphor, is a forensic study of the sting operation and alleges it was retaliation by the Indian government. In 2004, Art Silverblatt and Nikolai Zlobin described Tehelka as a "muckraking site" in their book "International Communications: A Media Literacy Approach"[17]


  1. ^ a b Ashish Sinha. Covert to get its first cover story Business Standard, 12 May 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bansal, Shuchi (11 June 2004). "Tehelka storm rages on", Rediff.com (New Delhi)
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ a b c India's cultural elite revive muckraking magazine. The Christian Science Monitor, 26 July 2004.
  5. ^ a b Tehelka Practising journalism: values, constraints, implications, by Nalini Rajan. Published by SAGE, 2005. ISBN 076193378. Page 70-71.
  6. ^ a b c d Asha Kasbekar (2006). Pop culture India!: media, arts, and lifestyle. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781851096367. 
  7. ^ Tehelka Billions of entrepreneurs: how China and India are reshaping their futures--and yours, by Tarun Khanna. Published by Harvard Business Press, 2007. ISBN 1-4221-0383-8. Page 55.
  8. ^ The Story of Us
  9. ^ Rekha Saxena (2003). India at the Polls: Parliamentary Elections in the Federal Phase. Sangam Books Ltd. pp. 18. ISBN 81-250-2328-. 
  10. ^ Tehelka Practising journalism: values, constraints, implications, by Nalini Rajan. Published by SAGE, 2005. ISBN 076193378. Page 77-78.
  11. ^ "Tehelka report: Fernandes cleared". http://www.rediff.com/news/2004/feb/04def.htm. 
  12. ^ V. Venkatesan. Dubious deal. The Hindu Frontline. Volume 23 - Issue 21 :: 21 Oct.-3 Nov. 2006.
  13. ^ CBI arrests Nandas over Barak missiles kickbacks
  14. ^ CBI quizzes Fernandes in Barak missile deal
  15. ^ The Truth: Gujarat 2002 in the words of the men who did it, Tehelka, Wednesday, 7 November 2007
  16. ^ MEDIA: The Gujarat killings, and the ethics of Tehelka, South Asian Journalists Association Forum, 31 October 2007.
  17. ^ International Communications: A Media Literacy Approach, p.183 -Art Silverblatt, Nikolai Zlobin, M.E. Sharpe, [2004].

External references

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