MJ Akbar, accused of sex harassment in #MeToo movement, has filed a defamation case
- MJ Akbar has been accused of rape by Pallavi Gogoi, a former colleague
- She says she was called to a Jaipur hotel where he allegedly raped her
- MJ Akbar has dismissed the allegations as false, his lawyer said
Editor-turned-politician MJ Akbar, who had to resign as union minister over sex harassment allegations against him, has now been accused of rape by a US-based journalist who worked with him over two decades ago. MJ Akbar has dismissed the allegations as false, his lawyer told The Washington Post, which has published the first person account of Pallavi Gogoi, an editor at the National Public Radio (NPR).
Pallavi Gogoi writes that MJ Akbar was the Editor-In-Chief at The Asian Age when she joined the newspaper as a "22-year-old star-struck journalist".
She says she was "mesmerized by his use of language and his turns of phrase" and took all the "verbal abuse" as part of the learning process.
She soon became the editor of the op-ed page, but ended up paying a "very big price" for the break, she says.
Recounting the horror when she had gone to show him the op-ed page, she writes, "He applauded my effort and suddenly lunged to kiss me. I reeled. I emerged from the office, red-faced, confused, ashamed, destroyed."
The second incident was a few months later, when during the launch of a magazine, "he called me to his room at the fancy Taj hotel (in Mumbai), 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."
It was followed by another call from her boss, this time from a hotel in Jaipur. "… even though I fought him, he was physically more powerful," she alleges.
The cycle of abuse and assertion of power continued when he "defiled me sexually, verbally, emotionally", she adds.
Pallavi Gogoi says she had confided in her friends, who were also allegedly assaulted by the author-editor. "I was in shreds — emotionally, physically, mentally."
She wraps her piece with, "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."
Over 20 former colleagues of MJ Akbar have come out with their versions of abuse by a powerful newsman. He sued one of them for defamation.
MJ Akbar has accused Priya Ramani, the first woman to call him out, of "intentionally putting forward malicious, fabricated and salacious" allegations to harm his reputation.
After resigning as junior foreign minister on October 17, MJ Akbar said in a statement, "Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me."
Ms Ramani said she was ready to fight the defamation complaint and "truth and the absolute truth is my only defence". Women who have spoken against Mr Akbar "have done so at great risk to personal and professional lives," she said.
After Ms Ramani more women posted allegations against Mr Akbar. The list includes Prerna Singh Bindra, Ghazala Wahab, Shutapa Paul, Anju Bharti, Suparna Sharma, Shuma Raha, Malini Bhupta, Kanika Gahlout, Kadambari M Wade, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Ruth David.
The #MeToo movement, which began in the United States more than a year ago after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, opened a can of worms in India in September soon after actor Tanushree Dutta accused her senior and film artiste Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. Since then, several men in the media, entertainment, political and art worlds have been accused of offences ranging from sexual harassment to rape.
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