#MeToo: US-based journalist accuses former minister MJ Akbar of rape

A new case of sexual harassment has been levelled against India’s former junior minister MJ Akbar. This time the US-based woman journalist, Pallavi Gogoi, has alleged that Akbar raped her when she was an employee of The Asian Age and MJ Akbar was the editor.

MJ Akbar has denied the allegations. “On 2 Nov, 2018, the Washington Post ran a piece written by Ms. Pallavi Gogoi, detailing false allegations of rape and violence against me. I have had occasion to read this article and it has become necessary, at this point in time, to bring certain facts to light.  Somewhere around 1994, Ms. Pallavi Gogoi & I entered into consensual relationship that spanned several months.This relationship gave rise to talk & would later cause strife in my home life as well. Ppl who worked with me & knew both of us have indicated that they would be happy to bear testimony to what is stated above & at no stage, did the behavior of Pallavi Gogoi, give any one of them impression that she was working under duress. This consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on best note,” MJ Akbar told ANI.

ALSO READ: #MeToo: MJ Akbar resigns as Minister of State for External Affairs

Over the past month, over a dozen woman have made allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against the ex-minister under the aegis of the #MeToo movement, which took off in India when actress Tanushree Dutta alleged that Nana Patekar harassed her on the sets of ‘Horn Ok Pleasss’ ten years ago.

After a spate of allegations emerged against Akbar, he resigned as the Minister of State for External Affairs and said that he will take recourse to the law and respond to the allegations. He has filed criminal defamation charges against the Priya Ramani, the first woman who accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment and the matter is now subjudice.

Pallavi Gogoi, a US-based journalist wrote about her painful experience in the Washington Post newspaper. MJ Akbar’s lawyer, Sandeep Kapur, expressly denied the allegations and said the incidents are completely false, when Washington Post editor got in touch with Kapur.

ALSO READ: Akbarnama: The #MeToo victims narrate their ordeal

Currently, the Chief Business Editor with US National Public Radio, Gogoi said she gathered the courage to bring the story out in the public after 23 years. She reported the incident in an article to the Washington Post.

According to the report in the Washington Post, Pallavi joined the Asian Age when she was 22. When she started working under MJ Akbar with the other colleagues, she assumed that it was a great opportunity to be guided and mentored by him. While he was at Asian Age, he helped with the launch of Sunday Magazine and the Telegraph as well.

At that time, Akbar was in his 40s and made sure that his employees were aware of his journalistic capabilities and skills. Pallavi was promoted as the editor of the op-ed page of the newspaper.

She writes that one day, she went to his office, the door to which was usually closed, to show him her article that she wanted to get published in the paper. While appreciating her for the effort, he came forward to kiss her. She nudged and ran out of the office feeling embarrassed and ashamed. One of her colleagues saw her disturbed and asked her the matter with whom she discussed the entire incident, she writes.

A few months later, she was sent to Mumbai to help with the launch of a magazine. MJ Akbar was staying at Taj Hotel in Mumbai and called Pallavi to his fancy looking room to have a look at the layouts. In the room, he tried to force himself on her, but Gogoi fought him and while she was running out of the room, he scratched her face.

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On returning to Delhi, Akbar threatened to take away her job if she resisted him again. She changed her work schedule in order to be on the field before he was in.

After sometime MJ Akbar and she were in Jaipur at the same time. This time she fought him but he was more powerful than her, ripped off her clothes and raped her. This went on for months as she then lost courage and strength to fight him which gave him the advantage of misbehaving with her repeatedly, Gogoi said in her narration in the Washington Post.

She finally had to leave the company and move to the US to save herself. After 23 years, she gathered the courage to narrate her story of being aware that there might be some implications of this.

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