Akbar says relationship with #MeToo accuser consensual, wife backs him

Former federal minister of India MJ Akbar said #MeToo allegations levelled against him by a US-based journalist were false as the seven-month relationship with her was “consensual”, ANI reports.

Pallavi Gogoi, the chief business editor for NPR, wrote a piece in The Washington Post on how, as a young journalist in India, she was raped by Akbar.

After Akbar’s denial, his wife Mallika Joseph said Gogoi was lying.

In a statement to ANI, Akbar said the relationship with Gogoi ended “not on the best note” after seven months in 1994 as it gave rise to talk and would cause strife in his home life.

Joseph, in her statement to ANI, said Gogoi caused unhappiness and discord in their home. She came to know about the relationship through Gogoi’s calls to her husband and the young journalist’s public display of affection for him in her presence. By flaunting her relationship, Gogoi caused anguish and hurt to the entire family, Joseph said.

Gogoi and her friend Tushita Patel were often at her home happily drinking and dining with them. According to Joseph, neither of the two carried the haunted look of victims of sexual assault.

When The Washington Post sought Akbar’s comment on Gogoi’s piece, his lawyer Sandeep Kapur said on behalf of him that the incidents and allegations described in the piece were false.

In her first person account, Gogoi wrote that 23 years ago, Akbar used his position as editor in chief of the Asian Age newspaper to prey on her.

She said what prompted her to write the piece was a recent report from India of several journalists who were “sexual harassed” by Akbar years ago.

In her piece, Gogoi alleged that at 23, Akbar lunged to kiss her when she went into his Delhi office to show the op-ed page she made.

According to her, a few months later, Akbar again tried to kiss her in a hotel room in Mumbai where she was summoned to help launch a magazine. As she pushed him away, he allegedly scratched her face, she wrote.

After she returned to Delhi, Akbar “threatened” to kick her out of the job if she resisted him again.

While on an assignment in Jaipur, she was summoned by Akbar to a hotel to discuss a story. According to her, he overpowered and “raped” her in the hotel room.
Gogoi did not report the matter to the police as she was filled with shame. She also thought nobody would believe her. She blamed herself for going to the hotel.

Akbar stepped down as federal minister on Oct 17 following allegations by journalists of sexual harassment that happened 10 to 20 years ago. The next day, he filed a criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani, the first woman who levelled allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

Akbar’s lawyer Geeta Luthra told a Delhi court that Ramani’s defamatory tweets caused irreparable damage to her client’s reputation, ultimately forcing him to quit on Wednesday to challenge her false accusations in a personal capacity.