Relationship Based on Coercion Not Consent: Gogoi on MJ Akbar
Pallavi Gogoi, a US-based editor, who had accused former Union Minister MJ Akbar of raping her when she worked under him at The Asian Age, refuted his claim of sharing a “consensual relationship”.
She wrote on Twitter:
“A relationship that is based on coercion, and abuse of power, is not consensual. I stand by every word in my published account.”
In a piece written for The Washington Post, on 1 November, journalist Pallavi Gogoi has claimed she was raped by Akbar back in the 1990s.
However, MJ Akbar, who had to recently resign from the post of Minister of State for External Affairs after multiple sexual harassment allegations, denied the Gogoi’s account and said that the relationship between the two was consensual which didn’t end on a good note and caused strife in his personal life, reported ANI.
Editors Guild Takes Note of Allegations
In a fresh statement, the Editors Guild of India on Friday, 2 November, said that it was “tracking with great concern fresh, and serious allegations of sexual misconduct against former editor MJ Akbar”. Akbar is a former president of the body.
Keeping in tune with its last statement against Akbar, it said that since Akbar was no longer a journalist, his membership with the Guild had become “dormant”.
‘He Ripped Off My Clothes and Raped Me’
Gogoi remembers that Akbar was the editor-in-chief of the newspaper back in the 90s when she joined the paper as a 22-year-old journalist.
She recalls that she was “mesmerised by his use of language” and took “all the verbal abuse” as a part of her learning.
She then goes on to write about the spring or summer of 1994 when she was elevated to the position of the op-ed editor of the newspaper.
She remembers she was first assaulted by Akbar when she went inside his office to show him the op-ed page she had created for the newspaper. She then describes an incident that she says left her scarred.
“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 Gogoi
In her piece, Gogoi has narrated other incidents where Akbar allegedly made advances and threatened her if she refused.
Narrating another such incident, Gogoi says she was summoned to Mumbai to help Akbar launch a magazine. She was called to Akbar’s hotel room to show him the layouts, and Akbar allegedly tried to kiss her and when she resisted, he scratched her face, she writes.
As Gogoi writes it, she started looking for more reporting opportunities to “escape” office and as one story took her to a remote village a few miles away from Delhi, she was called to meet Akbar in a hotel in Jaipur, where her assignment was to end.
Gogoi then recalls what happened with her in that hotel room.
“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 Gogoi
She also mentions that she doesn’t know why she couldn’t fight Akbar but remembers that his grip on her became tighter after the Jaipur incident.
“He continued to coerce me. For a few months, he continued to defile me sexually, verbally, emotionally,” Gogoi alleges.
Gogoi narrates another incident after the 1994 December elections when she was sent to the United States and the United Kingdom, which she thought would help her escape the abuse, but instead, Akbar would prey on her in the city where she was posted, she recalls.
“I recall the time he worked himself into a rage in the London office because he had seen me talk in a friendly manner to a male colleague. After my colleagues left work that evening, he hit me and went on a rampage, throwing things from the desk at me — a pair of scissors, a paperweight, whatever he could get his hands on.”Pallavi Gogoi
Gogoi says she was mentally, emotionally and physically drained, adding, “I left. This time for good.”
Gogoi ends her post by saying she has written it to “support the many women who have come out to tell their truth.”
MJ Akbar has been accused of sexual assault by over a dozen journalists and he is currently fighting a defamation case that he filed against journalist Priya Ramani, who was one of the first women to call out Akbar.
MJ Akbar Calls the Relationship ‘Consensual’
Responding to the piece written by Pallavi Gogoi, MJ Akbar told ANI that the two entered into a consensual relationship that spanned several months.
“Somewhere around 1994, Ms Pallavi Gogoi and I entered into 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 best note,” Akbar said.
Akbar also claimed that the people who worked with the two of them would bear testimony to what Akbar was claiming. Akbar alleged that at no point did Gogoi give an impression that she was working “under duress”.
Mallika Akbar Backs Husband, Calls Pallavi’s Account a ‘Lie’
Mallika Akbar, MJ Akbar’s wife, has broken her silence and said what Pallavi Gogoi has alleged against her husband is nothing but a “lie”.
In a statement, Mallika Akbar has said that Pallavi Gogoi caused “unhappiness” and “discord” in her marriage. She has further alleged Tushita Patel, another journalist who had alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Akbar, and Gogoi were at their house happily drinking and dining and they never carried the “haunted look of victims of sexual assault”.
Here is Mallika Akbar’s full statement:
(With inputs from ANI and The Washington Post)