Former Union minister MJ Akbar on Friday told ANI that journalist Pallavi Gogoi, who has accused him of raping her in 1994, had a “consensual relationship” with him. On Thursday, Gogoi wrote a first-person article in The Washington Post, alleging that Akbar had raped her when she worked with him at The Asian Age.
Akbar said his former co-workers were ready to testify that they never found Gogoi “working under duress” during the time she has accused him of sexually assaulting her.
In a statement to ANI, Akbar claimed that Gogoi’s account was false and it had become necessary to “bring certain facts to light”. He said their “consensual relationship” had given rise to talk and later caused strife in his personal life. “This consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on best note.”
MJ Akbar’s wife Mallika Akbar said she had been silent while several women accused her husband of sexual harassment but Gogoi’s article had forced her to “step in with what I know to be true”. “I don’t know Pallavi’s reasons for telling this lie, but a lie it is,” she said.
“Over 20 years ago, Pallavi Gogoi caused unhappiness and discord in our home,” Mallika Akbar said in a statement. “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.”
She added: “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 prioritise 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.”
In the article, Gogoi identified “Tushita” as a friend she had confided in about Akbar’s alleged actions. Tushita Patel also wrote an article in Scroll.in last month, accusing Akbar of sexually harassing her in the past.
MJ Akbar further said: “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 behaviour of Pallavi Gogoi give any one of them impression that she was working under duress.”
Akbar’s lawyer, Sandeep Kapur, had earlier told The Washington Post that the editor-turned-politician had denied the allegations. “My client states that these [incidents and allegations] are false and expressly denied,” he told the paper.
Meanwhile, the Editors Guild of India said it was “tracking with great concern” the latest allegation against Akbar. The guild pointed out that Akbar’s membership to the guild was dormant as he had changed his profession.
“The Guild Executive is discussing further course of action,” it said. “As provided by the Guild’s Constitution, the executive committee is writing to him to respond to these allegations. His response will then be put up to the executive. A decision on his membership will be taken once this due process is completed.”
Over the past month, Akbar has been accused of sexual harassment by at least 17 women journalists. He has rejected all the allegations and has filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, one of the complainants. On October 17, Akbar resigned from his post as minister.
PVS Sarma, a Bharatiya Janata Party leader from Gujarat, tweeted on Friday that Akbar remaining a party member was “not tenable” after so many allegations.
“He may not have been in BJP during that period but he is alleged to have misused his authority as editor and exploited young women who looked up to him!” Sarma said. “Particularly as parents of a young working woman, such damning allegations and predators like MJ Akbar keep giving us nightmares and sleepless nights. How can young women be safe with such sexual maniacs around in places of power and authority?”