Tuesday, Oct 04, 2022

#MeToo: US-Based Journalist Accuses Former Minister MJ Akbar Of Rape

Pallavi Gogoi, now chief business editor for NPR, wrote in The Washington Post that Akbar had raped her when she had worked under him as a 23-year-old at Asian Age.

MJ Akbar raped me in 1994, journalist alleges in Washington Post. PTI Photo

A US-based journalist on Thursday accused former minister of state of external affairs MJ Akbar of raping her years ago when she worked with the Asian Age.

In a first-person article in the Washington Post, the journalist-- Pallavi Gogoi wrote that she was 22 when she joined the Asian Age, of which Akbar was the editor-in-chief.

Terming the incidents the 'most painful memories of her life', Gogoi wrote: “Working in New Delhi under Akbar, we were star-struck. Though Akbar often shouted at his employees, but I accepted the verbal abuse thinking I was “learning from the best".

Sharing one of her harrowing experience with Akbar, Gogoi said, he had once called her to discuss a layout when he tried to forcefully kiss her. "He called me to his room at the fancy Taj hotel to see the layouts. During the discussion, he came close to me to kiss me, I fought him and pushed him away. He scratched my face as I ran away, tears streaming down," Gogoi said.

"He continued to coerce me. For a few months, he continued to defile me sexually, verbally, emotionally. He would burst into loud rages in the newsroom if he saw me talking to male colleagues my own age. It was frightening," she added.

Gogoi claimed she was raped after she went to Akbar's hotel room in Jaipur to discuss a story on the murder of an inter-caste couple. “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,” Gogoi wrote in the Washington Post.

However, denying the allegations, Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur said that the incidents and allegations are false. “My client states that these [incidents and allegations] are false and expressly denied,” he told the paper.

In last one month, Akbar has been accused of sexual harassment by at least 17 women journalists. He has rejected all the allegations and has initiated a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, one of the complainants.

MJ Akbar resigned from the post of minister of state for external affairs following multiple allegations of sexual harassment on October 17.

However, before resigning,  Akbar on October 15 filed a private criminal defamation complaint against journalist Ramani for "wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously" defaming him and has sought her prosecution under the penal provision on defamation.

Journalist Priya Ramani was the first to state on record that Akbar had called her to his hotel room.

Ramani identified Akbar as the editor she had written about in an article in Vogue in October, 2017.

In her article, Ramani described how a newspaper editor had called her for a job interview to a "plush South Mumbai hotel."

“You taught me my first workplace lesson. I was 23, you were 43. I grew up reading your smart opinions and dreamt of being as erudite as you. You were one of my professional heroes.

Everyone said you had transformed Indian journalism and I wanted to be on your team. So, we set a time you could interview me at the plush south Mumbai hotel where you always stayed," she wrote in Vogue.

In the article she said , “You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault.” And how speaking up against him meant carrying a heavy price which not many women can afford to pay.

(With inputs from agencies)