Fresh allegations against former Union Minister and journalist MJ Akbar have come to the fore. This time it is the Chief Business Editor of National Public Radio (NPR), Pallavi Gogoi, who has not just accused Akbar of sexual misconduct but that of rape in an article for The Washington Post.

Gogoi recollected that as a 22-year-old, when she joined The Asian Age in 1994, along with another journalist Tushita Patel, he sexually assaulted her. Patel has also accused Akbar of sexual abuse around the same time in the same organisation.

“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,” Gogoi wrote.

This wasn’t the only incident that happened with the US-based journalist. The incidents increased as the months passed by. “The second incident was a few months later, when I was summoned to Bombay 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. That evening, I explained the scratches to a friend by telling her I had slipped and fallen at the hotel,” she recollected.

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Akbar did not just use his power and entitlement to violate Gogoi but also to threaten her to kick her out of the job. However, she resisted. Gogoi recalled how Akbar raped her in Jaipur when he called her on the pretext of discussing a story idea and then continued to coerce her to submit to him sexually.

“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?”

This physical abuse continued for a long time even when he moved her overseas to the UK as now he would come to the cities where she was posted at and could use his power over her. “I was in shreds — emotionally, physically, mentally. I knew I had to get out of London. Besides Tushita, I shared all this with another close friend, Suparna. I told them I was going to run away from the misery,” she said.

“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?”

Responding to these allegations, MJ Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur told The Washington Post, “My client states that these [incidents and allegations] are false and expressly denied.”

In the first week of October, journalist Priya Ramani had revealed that it was Akbar when she wrote about her assaulter in 2017 in an article for Vogue. Then came Ghazala Wahab who revealed details of how Akbar abused her in an article in The Wire. In total, over 20 women have spoken about Akbar’s sexual misconduct in public. While he resigned from his position as Junior Foreign Minister, he also filed a defamation case against Ramani, the hearing of which started on 31 October when Akbar submitted his statement in the Patiala House Court. The next hearing is slated for November 12.

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