Pallavi Gogoi, a journalist who worked with MJ Akbar at The Asian Age in the 1990s, has accused him of raping and sexually abusing her for months.
Late last night, Indian-born US-based journalist Pallavi Gogoi accused former Union Minister MJ Akbar of raping her at a Jaipur hotel 23 years ago. The accusation, published in a blog in the Washington Post, also outlines an alleged attempt at harassment in the office the previous year. The newspaper also published a statement by Akbar's lawyer, saying the allegations are false.
The accusation came less than a day after Akbar testified in a Delhi court in his defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani for a series of tweets accusing him of sexual harassment.
Pallavi Gogoi ,currently the Chief Business Editor of National Public Radio (NPR) in the US, wrote,
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?
The post highlights the predatory power play that has long been a focus area when it comes to understanding and tackling sexual harassment at the workplace, and why many individuals keep silent and suffer abuse over long periods of time.
Pallavi writes that she tried to spend as little time in the office as possible, choosing instead to report from various parts of the country, including he 1994 elections. However, the abuse continued for months, even after she had been transferred to London, and Akbar would fly into a rage if he saw her talking to male colleagues in a "friendly manner".
She finally resigned, she says, after Akbar recalled her to Mumbai even though she had a work visa for the US. She then got a job with Dow Jones and has since continued working at the journalists, with stints at Business Week, USA Today, Associated Press, and CNN.
In her post, Pallavi also writes how young journalists at The Asian Age, where she worked when the incident reportedly occurred, were mesmerised by "his use of language, his turns of phrase" and wished "that I could write like he did". So I took all the verbal abuse. After all, I was learning from the best. Or so I thought."
Akbar, she alleges, always made sure that the team was aware of his "superior journalistic skills".
He marked our copy with his red-ink-filled Mont Blanc pen, crumpled our printouts and often threw them in the garbage bin, as we shuddered. There was never a day when he didn’t shout at one of us at the top of his voice. We rarely measured up to his standards.
While nearly 20 other women also made allegations of sexual harassment against Akbar, this is the first time that he has been accused of rape, a criminal offense that carries a jail term of a minimum of 10 years and a maximum term of life imprisonment. At the time of publication, Akbar had yet to react to the allegations.