Monday, 30th October 2017

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Accused of rape, Akbar says affair; wife calls charge a lie

A former journalist with The Asian Age has accused Akbar of raping her in 1994

  • Published 3.11.18, 2:33 AM
  • Updated 3.11.18, 9:19 AM
  • 4 mins read
MJ Akbar resigned last month as junior foreign minister after several former colleagues accused him of sexual harassment. Sourced by The Telegraph

A US-based journalist and former colleague has accused M.J. Akbar of raping her, prompting the former minister’s wife to speak out for the first time and contest the charge and her husband to claim he had a consensual relationship with the accuser.

Akbar, a former editor of several publications, including The Telegraph, had resigned last month as junior foreign minister after several former colleagues accused him of sexual harassment.

Pallavi Gogoi, the chief business editor of America’s National Public Radio and a former journalist with The Asian Age that Akbar had launched, levelled the rape charges in an article in The Washington Post newspaper.

Gogoi claimed that Akbar raped her in a Jaipur hotel room in 1994, where he had called her over to discuss a report after she had completed an assignment in the city.

“In his hotel room, even though I fought him, he was physically more powerful. He ripped off my clothes and raped me. Instead of reporting him to the police, I was filled with shame. I didn’t tell anyone about this then. Would anyone have believed me? I blamed myself. Why did I go to the hotel room? What was worse was that after that first time, his grip over me got tighter. I stopped fighting his advances because I felt so helpless. He continued to coerce me. For a few months, he continued to defile me sexually, verbally, emotionally,” Gogoi wrote in the article titled: “As a young journalist in India, I was raped by M.J. Akbar. Here is my story.”

She added that she quit the following year after being assaulted by him in London, when she was with The Asian Age bureau there. “Akbar has threatened to sue other women who come forward. And maybe there are implications that I haven’t thought of. But I am writing this because I know what it is like to be victimised by powerful men like Akbar. I am writing this to support the many women who have come out to tell their truth. I am writing this for my teenage daughter and son. So they know to fight back when anyone victimises them. So they know never to victimise anyone. So they know that 23 years after what happened to me, I have risen from those dark times, refusing to let them define me, and I will continue to move forward,” Gogoi wrote.

Akbar has filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, the first person to name him in the MeToo campaign.

Several times, Gogoi mentioned in her account, she confided in her friends Tushita and Suparna. Tushita Patel, a former Asian Age journalist, and Suparna Sharma, the current resident editor of the paper in Delhi as well as an associated publication, had accused Akbar of molestation and unwanted touch, respectively.

The Post mentioned at the beginning of Gogoi’s account that Akbar’s lawyer, Sandeep Kapur, said: “My client states that these (incidents and allegations) are false and expressly denied.”

Akbar iterated the denial and told the ANI news agency: “Somewhere around 1994, Ms. Pallavi Gogoi and I entered into a consensual relationship that spanned several months. This relationship gave rise to talk and would later cause significant strife in my home life as well. This consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on the best note.

“Several people who worked with me and knew both of us have come forward to indicate that they would be happy to bear testimony to what is stated above and, at no stage, did the behaviour of Ms. Pallavi Gogoi, give any one of them the impression that she was working under, or in any way, under duress.”

Mallika, psycho-analyst and the wife of Akbar, released a statement to ANI.

The statement said: “I have been silent all this while as a ‘me too’ campaign has been unleashed against my husband, Mr M.J. Akbar. However, The Washington Post article by Pallavi Gogoi alleging that she was raped by him forces me to step in with what I know to be true. More than twenty years ago, Pallavi Gogoi caused unhappiness and discord in our home. I learned of her and my husband’s involvement through her late night phone calls and her public display of affection in my presence. In her flaunting the relationship, she caused anguish and hurt to my entire family.

“At an Asian Age party at our home, crowded with young journalists, I have watched with mortification and pain as they danced close. I had confronted my husband at the time and he decided to prioritise his family.

“Tushita Patel and Pallavi Gogoi were often at our home, happily drinking and dining with us. Neither carried the haunted look of victims of sexual assault. I don’t know Pallavi’s reasons for telling this lie but a lie it is.”

The Editors Guild, of which Akbar is a “dormant member,” said in a statement: “The Editors Guild of India is tracking with great concern fresh, and serious allegations of sexual misconduct against former editor M.J. Akbar. He is a past president of the Guild, and continues to be a member…. As provided by the Guild’s constitution, the executive committee is writing to him to respond to these allegations. His response will then be put up to the executive. A decision on his membership will be taken once this due process is completed.”

Gogoi responds: Later, Gogoi tweeted: “... Rather than take responsibility for his abuse of me and his serial predation of other young women who have courageously come forward, Akbar has insisted... that the relationship was consensual. It was not. A relationship that is based on coercion, and abuse of power, is not consensual. I stand by every word in my published account. I will continue to speak the truth so that other women who have been sexually assaulted by him know its ok for them to come forward and speak their truth too.”