‘MJ Akbar raped me’: US-based journalist details horrific ordeal

Chief Business Editor at NPR, Pallavi Gogoi has detailed the harassment and sexual assault she faced when she worked as a journalist under MJ Akbar at The Asian Age.
‘MJ Akbar raped me’: US-based journalist details horrific ordeal
‘MJ Akbar raped me’: US-based journalist details horrific ordeal
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Another journalist has come out with her #MeToo allegations against MJ Akbar, former journalist and former central minister who stepped down from his post as Minister of State for External Affairs after several women accused him of sexual harassment, sexual assault and misconduct. US-based Pallavi Gogoi, the chief business editor for NPR, has now accused Akbar of rape in an editorial published in The Washington Post. Pallavi worked under Akbar at The Asian Age in the 1990s.

“What I am about to share are the most painful memories of my life. I have shelved them away for 23 years,” Pallavi writes. The first instance of sexual assault Pallavi says she faced at the hands of MJ Akbar was when she was 23 and was promoted to the post of editor of the paper’s Op-Ed page. “It must have been late spring or summer of 1994, and I had gone into his office – his door was often closed. I went to show him the op-ed page I had created with what I thought were clever headlines. He applauded my effort and suddenly lunged to kiss me. I reeled. I emerged from the office, red-faced, confused, ashamed, destroyed,” Pallavi narrates.

The second incident according to Pallavi was a few months later, when she was summoned to Mumbai to help launch a magazine. “He called me to his room at the fancy Taj hotel, again to see the layouts. When he again 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,” she says.

When she returned to New Delhi, Pallavi says Akbar threatened to fire her if she resisted his advances. So she began to look for stories that would require her to travel out of the city. Soon after the incident in Mumbai, Pallavi shares a story required her to travel out of Delhi to a village near Jaipur. The assignment was to end in Jaipur, she says, and Akbar then told her that she could come and discuss the story in his hotel in Jaipur.

“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?” Pallavi writes. She adds that her ordeal continued for months.

“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. He would burst into loud rages in the newsroom if he saw me talking to male colleagues my own age. It was frightening,” she adds.

To get away from Akbar, Pallavi states she went to Karnataka to cover the 1994 elections and predicted the outcome correctly. As a reward, Akbar sent her overseas to cover from the London office. But the abuse did not stop, she says, “...the truth was that he was sending me away so I could have no defenses and he could prey on me whenever he visited the city where I would be posted.”

Pallavi finally managed to gather courage and quit her job. She got a job as a reporting assistant in New York and moved there.

“Today, I am a US citizen. I am a wife and mother. I found my love for journalism again. I picked up my life, piece by piece,” she says.

“But I am writing this because I know what it is like to be victimized 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 victimizes them. So they know never to victimize 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,” she concludes.

While MJ Akbar has stepped down from the post of Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs after over 20 women accused him of sexual harassment and sexual assault, he continues to be BJP’s Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha. He has moved a Delhi court accusing Priya Ramani, the journalist who first outed him, of defamation. The Patiala House Court in New Delhi is hearing the case.

Hours after the article was published, MJ Akbar released a statement denying the allegations. In his statement to news agency ANI, Akbar claims that he and Pallavi had a ‘consensual relationship.’

“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 strife in my home life as well. This consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on the best note. People who worked with me and knew both of us have indicated that they would be happy to bear testimony to what is stated above and at no stage, did the behaviour of Pallavi Gogoi, give any one of the impression that she was working under duress,” he stated. He added that The Washington Post sent him a series of questions on October 29 and he had denied the allegations in response.

MJ Akbar's wife, Mallika Joseph Akbar, also put out a statement denying the allegations. "I don't know Pallavi's reasons for telling this lie, but a lie it is," she told ANI.

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