Former Union minister and editor MJ Akbar and his wife Mallika Joseph on Friday said that the allegations of rape and sexual harassment against him made by US-based journalist Pallavi Gogoi are false. Akbar has been accused of sexual harassment by at least 15 women since a wave of #MeToo took Indian newsrooms by storm around a month ago.
This is the first instance that Akbar's wife has reacted to an allegation against him. In the statement released to ANI, Akbar denied the allegations which were made by Gogoi in an account in The Washington Post, and claimed that "they were false".
The statement said that the newspaper had on 29 October sent "a series of cryptic and non-specific questions" to his lawyers about the incidents spoken about by Gogoi, which had been denied and claimed to be false.
Akbar's wife Mallika Akbar also called Gogoi's allegation of rape "a lie". She said, I don't know what Gogoi's reasons are for telling this lie, but a lie it is."
I don't know Pallavi's reasons for telling this lie, but a lie it is: #MJAkbar's wife Mallika Akbar to ANI on journalist Pallavi Gogoi's rape allegations in the Washington Post against her husband pic.twitter.com/SFws1TwWhx
— ANI (@ANI) November 2, 2018
"I have been silent all this while as a ‘me too’ campaign has been unleashed against my husband, Akbar. However, the Washington Post article by Pallavi Gogoi alleging that she was raped by him forces me to step in with what I know to be true. Over 20 years ago, Pallavi Gogoi caused unhappiness and discord in our home. "I learned of her and my husband’s involvement through her calls and her public display of affection in my presence. In her flaunting the relationship, she caused anguish and hurt to my entire family," Mallika was quoted as saying. "At an Asian Age party at our home, crowded with young journalists, I have watched with mortification and pain as they danced close. "I had confronted my husband at the time and he decided to prioritize his family. Tushita Patel and Pallavi Gogoi were often at our home, happily drinking and dining with us. Neither carried the haunted look of victims of sexual assault. I don’t know Pallavi’s reasons for telling this lie but a lie it is," Mallika added.
After the report was published on Friday, Akbar, in his statement, said that "it was necessary to bring certain facts to light" after "false allegations of rape and violence were made" against him. In the statement, Akbar said, "Somewhere around 1994, Pallavi Gogoi and I entered into a 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 the best note." "People who worked with me and knew both of us have indicated that they would be happy to bear testimony to what is stated above and at no stage, did the behavior of Pallavi Gogoi, give any one of them impression that she was working under duress," Akbar was quoted as saying. In her account in The Washington Post, Gogoi details her ordeal. The newspaper got in touch with Akbar's lawyer Sandeep Kapur. The report said, "We reached out to Sandeep Kapur, MJ Akbar’s lawyer, for comment on the accounts laid out in this piece. The response: “My client states that these [incidents and allegations] are false and expressly denied.”" Her story starts in the same vein as most other women journalists like Ghazala Wahab and Priya Ramani who spoke up about their ordeals of sexual harassment from Akbar; Gogoi describes how the majorly female staff at The Asian Age at the time was in awe of Akbar.
Those before me have given me the courage to reach into the recesses of my mind and confront the monster that I escaped from decades ago. Together, our voices tell a different truth @TushitaPatel @SuparnaSharma @priyaramani @ghazalawahab My story https://t.co/DG5dT7TEUU — Pallavi Gogoi (@pgogoi) November 1, 2018
Gogoi became the editor of the op-ed page at the newspaper at 23.
She writes about instances starting in 1994 when Akbar tried to kiss her in his office. She says that Akbar had "suddenly lunged" in an attempt to kiss her, when she was in his office for a review of her work. She also mentions the detail that has been uniform in the stories so far — that "his (office) door was often closed". According to the report, Gogoi managed to escape another such advance in Mumbai a few months later.
Gogoi writes that the situation worsened after Akbar raped her in his hotel room in Jaipur, when she had gone to the city to cover a story.
After the incident, she says that she "stopped fighting his advances". "He continued to coerce me. For a few months, he continued to defile me sexually, verbally, emotionally," she said.
Gogoi says she confided about her ordeal in journalist Tushita Patel, who also spoke about facing sexual harassment from Akbar. Gogoi left The Asian Age soon after to work as a reporting assistant in New York.
Firstpost reached out to Akbar's lawyers for a statement on Gogoi's allegation, but the firm said that it could not comment on the account at this time.
Firstpost has reached out to Sandeep Kapur and Pallavi Gogoi for comment and this article will be updated when they respond.
Updated Date: Nov 02, 2018 16:14 PM