M J Akbar

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M J Akbar
Portrait of an alleged predator as a young man

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Sexual harassment in India's media, entertainment, advertising industries; academics

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Contents

Allegations of sexual misconduct/ 2018

Summary

Priya Ramani
Tushita Patel

‘‘The Times of India’’


UNION MINISTER (till Oct 2018, when the accusations surfaced)

Accused of

SEXUAL MISCONDUCT, HARASSMENT AND INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR (in an earlier capacity, when he was a newspaper editor)

Several women journalists, including Priya Ramani, Ghazala Wahab and Shutapa Paul and Tushita Patel came out with detailed accounts of alleged sexual misconduct by Akbar when he held senior editorial positions at various media organisations.

His defence

The Union minister has called all the allegations against him false and fabricated. He has further accused Priya Ramani of "willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously" defaming him. (From ‘‘The Times of India’’)

Akbar filed a defamation case in Delhi's Patiala House court against Priya Ramani. The court has listed the matter to October 18. However, 20 women journalists have come out in support of their colleagues and urged the court to hear their testimonies against Akbar. BJP president Amit Shah has said the charges against the minister will be examined. Akbar continues to be the Union minister of state for external affairs.

A day after junior external affairs minister M J Akbar filed a defamation case against Priya Ramani, 20 women journalists came out in her support and urged the court to hear their testimonies against him.

“We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment,” the 20 women, who worked with Akbar at The Asian Age in the 1990s, said.

Many journalists have accused the minister and former editor of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour. 20 women journalists wrote a petition on Tuesday condemning his behaviour and “the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age”. Former journalist Tushita Patel also became the latest to join in the allegations against Akbar.

In the statement, the women said, “What Akbar has demonstrated through his legal actions is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused immense pain and indeed harm to many women over the years.”

Hours after returning from a trip to Africa, Akbar issued a statement saying accusations without evidence have become a “viral fever” among some sections.

How the Akbar exposé began

Damayanti Datta, Shweta Punj, Chinki Sinha| #MeToo hits home | October 12, 2018 | India Today


11:50 pm: "I am sorry to bring this up -- but I was thinking of the harassment you had to face..."

11:54 pm: "Nobody dares to mention M.J. Akbar. Wonder why. He has single-handedly destroyed so many lives and careers"

11:57 pm: "He used to take young journalists with him to cover prime assignments and then call them over at night. Those who did not obey were ruined"

11:59 pm: "Hell. Should we just anonymously call him out?"

It's October 7, Sunday, nearly midnight. And two women journalists are texting each other.

The celebrity journalist-cum-neophyte minister M.J. Akbar, who once famously said, "You can chop off limbs but can't get rid of the head," was "called out" on Twitter exactly at 12 am by the two journalists, with a screenshot of their exchange and a salute to Article 19 of the Constitution of India: "#TimesUp Mr MJ Akbar." Within minutes, the post drew up to 300-plus Likes and Retweets. Before an hour was up, anonymous women were revealing untold stories of alleged aggressive sexual overtures by the man.

Suparna Sharma, resident editor of The Asian Age, Delhi, wrote in her tweet that "he (Akbar) was always preying on someone and generally crossing boundaries with others". In the 1990s, when she reported to Akbar, he had once plucked her bra strap. Sharma was in her early 20s, but remembers screaming at him. That's one of the many "transgressions" that were routine: "No one was spared and at that time there were no committees one could go to." Most of the women who have called him out now allege that there was a pattern to the way he pursued women: arranging to meet them in a hotel room, holding out prestigious assignments, sending them out of town, insisting on a shared car ride. Almost all his accusers say they were young, many lived alone in a different city. Writer and journalist Priya Ramani has come on record saying Akbar had called her to his hotel room in 1997, when she was a "rookie", just 23 and he 43, at the time of the Incident.

Priya Ramani makes the first allegation

One of the most high profile men to be accused is M.J. Akbar, the current minister of state for external affairs and a former journalist. Multiple women have come on record to accuse Akbar of harassment and inappropriate behavior. He has not commented on the allegations and an official from the Ministry of External Affairs said it had no comment when contacted by TIME. (Kamakshi Ayyar | TIME)


Tweet

Priya Ramani

@priyaramani


I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t “do” anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator—maybe they’ll share. #ulti https://www.vogue.in/content/harvey-weinsteins-open-letter-sexual-harassment/amp/#click=https://t.co/A2uHiJt9zd

6:15 PM - Oct 8, 2018

Five lady journalists back her

Majlie de Puy Kamp

Krishn Kaushik , Somya Lakhani | Five women journalists on MJ Akbar's statement: ‘Stand by accusations, will fight’ | October 15, 2018 | Indian Express


Hours after Union minister M J Akbar rejected allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment and suggested they may have been guided by political motives, five of the women journalists who accused him said they stood by their statements. Two of them said they were disappointed by Akbar’s reaction, but they were not surprised.

Suparna Sharma, Resident Editor, The Asian Age, told The Indian Express, “I stand by my testimony of the two incidents — one in which he plucked my bra strap, and the other when he stared at my breasts. I also stand by the fact that he did the same with other women in the office. I am disappointed with Akbar’s response but I am not surprised. This is going to be a longish battle, and the next step in many cases is a legal step.”

Sharma said that for her, “it was not over yet”, and that she was speaking to friends for “legal advice”.

Responding to Akbar’s question, “Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda?”, New York-based journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp (30), said: “I am not a citizen, I cannot vote. I do not have a political agenda. Plus, I have a paper trail. My father wrote an email to Akbar about the incident to which he responded. I have evidence. I am disappointed but not surprised by his statement. I am, however, very comfortable with my story.”

Puy Kamp has accused Akbar of forcibly kissing her when she was interning at The Asian Age in 2007.

Priya Ramani, who on October 8 outed Akbar as the unnamed editor she had mentioned in a piece she had written in October 2017 in Vogue India, told The Indian Express Sunday: “Akbar has decided to brazen it out. There is no conspiracy against Akbar, none of us — unlike him — have any political ambitions. We are speaking up at great cost to our personal and professional lives.”

Ramani also said, “The truth is the best defence in any defamation case. I’m not worried.”

Freelance journalist Kanika Gahlaut, who worked with Akbar from 1995 to 1997, too said, “I stand by whatever I said.” Gahlaut had told The Indian Express that she wasn’t sure “if everyone got hit (on)”, but “I certainly did, and my friend did”.

Shutapa Paul, who had tweeted about her experience with Akbar on October 10, told The Indian Express Sunday that she will “not be intimidated by my tormentor and cower down”. She said: “I am shocked and dismayed. M J Akbar’s brazen shaming of all of us is evidence of his sense of entitlement and power. Our fight is the fight for every woman; a fight for justice, a fight against feeling violated in the workplace and in daily life.”

#MeToo: 20 Women Journalists Speak Out Against MJ Akbar, Ask Court To Consider Their Testimonies | Huffington Post

19 of them are former or current employees of 'The Asian Age'.


A day after Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar filed a defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, 19 former and current employees of The Asian Age wrote a petition asking New Delhi's Patiala House Court to consider their testimonies against the minister. The 20th woman who has signed the petition worked for Deccan Chronicle.

Akbar, a former journalist and editor, had launched The Asian Age in 1994. He filed a case against Ramani, who was one of the first women to call out Akbar on Twitter for his predatory behaviour during the #MeToo movement.

Firstpost.com quoted the petition as saying:

When Ms. Ramani spoke out against him in public, she spoke not only about her personal experience but also lifted the lid on the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that Mr. Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age.

Ms. Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment.

The women said in their petition that Akbar continued to enjoy power and "demonstrated through his legal actions... his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions".

Akbar said that the "scandalous allegations leveled" by Ramani were "ex facie defamatory and have not only damaged his goodwill and reputation ...in his social circles and on the political stage, established after years of toil and hard work." The defamation plea said it also ruined Akbar's "personal reputation in the community, friends, family and colleagues, thereby causing him irreparable loss and tremendous distress".

Ramani stood by her allegations and said in a statement on the same day, "I am deeply disappointed that a union minister should dismiss the detailed allegations of several women as a political conspiracy," Ramani said.

"By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Mr Akbar has made it clear, rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment," she added.

Ghazala Wahab, the seventh accuser

Ghazala Wahab

Somya Lakhani , Krishn Kaushik | #MeToo campaign: Woman No. 7 speaks up against Union Minister MJ Akbar | October 11, 2018 | Indian Express]


In a detailed account, Ghazala Wahab, executive editor of Force magazine, described several instances where Akbar allegedly molested her by grabbing her, rubbing his body against hers and forcefully kissing her in his office.


In a detailed account written for The Wire, Ghazala Wahab, executive editor of Force magazine, described several instances where Akbar allegedly molested her by grabbing her, rubbing his body against hers and forcefully kissing her in his office.

Wahab, who worked with The Asian Age from 1994 to 1997 — where Akbar was founder-editor — wrote that he would make her sit opposite him “while he was supposedly writing his weekly column” and if he “needed to look up a word in the gigantic dictionary placed on a low tripod on the far end of his cabin, he would ask me instead of walking across the room”.

The dictionary, she said was placed low, and she had to bend or squat to read it, with her back facing Akbar. Wahab wrote: “Once, in autumn of 1997, while I was half-squatting over the dictionary, he sneaked up behind me and held me by my waist. I stumbled in sheer fright while struggling to get to my feet. He ran his hands from my breast to my hips. I tried pushing his hands away, but they were plastered on my waist, his thumbs rubbing the sides of my breasts.” All this while, she wrote, “the wily smile never left his face”.

Her experience continued for six months, Wahab said. Every time Akbar called her into his cabin she wrote she “died a thousand times”. She would enter her room keeping the door slightly open and her hand on the knob. But Akbar would sometimes “walk over to the door and put his hand over mine; sometimes he would rub his body against mine; sometimes he would push his tongue against my pursed lips; and every time I would push him away and escape from his room”.

The “nightmare” as Wahab described her experience, started in the third year at the job when her desk was shifted to outside Akbar’s cabin and she was “face to face with him”. He would, she described, “sit at his desk and watch me all the time, often sending me lewd messages” and the newspaper’s intranet network.

When she planned to quit, she wrote, she wondered what “will happen if I continue to resist him? Will he rape me? Will he harm me? I considered going to the police, but got scared”. Wahab told Akbar that she did not “want him to behave like this with” her again, but instead of an apology, she wrote, he “looked pained at my protests and proceeded to give me a lecture on how I was humiliating him by suggesting that his emotions for me were not genuine”.

At one point, Wahab wrote, “after one particularly harrowing afternoon” in Akbar’s office, Veenu Sandal, the Asian Age tarot card reader who used to do a weekly column and had “become Akbar’s private astrologer” came to Wahab’s desk to tell her that Akbar was “truly in love” with her.

When contacted, Sandal denied this as “nonsense” and said that in 20 years, she never “heard anybody saying that he molested us or he forced us into something.” “As a journalist if you cannot expose what is happening to you at that time then what are you worth, how will you expose what is happening to others. She’s speaking about this so much later? Why? There has to be a motive…What proof does she have?” said Sandal.

Referring to the #MeToo disclosures, Sandal said: “I am sure 90 per cent of the incidents are true but I am also sure there are 10 per cent where grudges are being taken out…(by) disgruntled elements. And I think Ghazala is one of them.” She also said that “unfortunately or fortunately” the moment is loaded for the accuser at the moment. “You have only Ghazala’s word and you have to look at whose credibility is greater.”

Once, along with a colleague, Wahab said she spoke to Seema Mustafa, then the bureau chief, who heard her, but “was not surprised” and told Wahab that the call was “entirely” hers about what she wanted to do.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, Mustafa addressed Wahab’s reference to her. She wrote that over the years she has “been consistent in my condemnation — both on and off the record — of the culture at Asian Age, created by MJ Akbar”. She said that “we were never silent but our inability to be more vocal stemmed from the inability at the time — 20 years ago — of victims to publicly share the account of harassment”.

About Wahab complaining to her, Mustafa said that she did “not recall anyone coming forth” when she was at the newspaper, “yet, I believe Ghazala Wahab when she says that she confided in me”.


'Lies do not have legs': Journalist Ghazala Wahab responds to MJ Akbar's statement | Tuesday, October 16, 2018 | IANS

Writing for the news website The Wire, Wahab said Akbar's statement describing the charges against him as based on "innuendo, speculation" was "full of tired clichés" and he was either lying or his memory was failing him when he spoke of a "very tiny cubicle" - the place inside the newspaper office where the harassment was said to have taken place two decades back.

"In attempting to refute my story of molestation and harassment, Akbar has tried to hide inside his supposedly 'very tiny cubicle, patched together by plywood and glass'.

"Either he is lying, or age has caught up with him. I would prefer believing the latter, so here is something to refresh his memory," Wahab wrote.

She proceeded to recount that the refurbished office of the Asian Age newspaper, of which Akbar was then Editor, in Surya Kiran building was "big" and Akbar's room "soundproof".

(Deccan Herald added: Ghazala says even when she used to sit just outside his cabin, all she could hear was muffled noises if he screams at anybody inside.}

"It was big. His polished wood desk was huge (lined with a row of Ganeshas) and had a small workstation attached to it. At his back was polished wood (all gloss) wall-to-wall hutch cabinet with storage at the bottom and bookshelves at eye level.

Wahab in her account also posted the screenshots of her conversations with ex-Asian Age colleague from the same period, who, according to her, were in the know of Akbar's reputation or at least what he did to her.

Chronology

Women vs MJ Akbar: From allegations to resignation - how it happened | October 17, 2018 |India Today


The BJP lawmaker, senior journalist-turned-politician MJ Akbar, is by far the most powerful man on the growing list of public figures named in India's #MeToo uprising.


HIGHLIGHTS

MJ Akbar was first accused by columnist Priya Ramani, who had written about him in an article for a magazine in October 2017 -- without specifically identifying him.

The incident took place when Priya was 23 years old and Akbar 43. More than ten women, since then, have come forward and accused Akbar of sexual harassment.

MJ Akbar, finally, resigned ten days after Priya Ramani accused him. Speculation is rife that it was the Prime Minister's Office that intervened and made the junior minister do so.

It all started with one woman standing up against her harasser and now, the #MeToo chorus is being heard in every corner of the country. The campaign took India by storm with women naming men who sexually harassed them.


The BJP lawmaker, senior journalist-turned-politician MJ Akbar, is by far the most powerful man on the growing list of public figures named in India's #MeToo uprising.

He was first accused by columnist Priya Ramani, who had written about him in an article for a magazine in October 2017 -- without specifically identifying him.

The incident took place when Priya was 23 years old and Akbar 43. More than ten women, since then, have come forward and accused Akbar of sexual harassment .

OFFICIAL DENIAL ON AN OFFICIAL TRIP

Akbar was on an official trip to Africa when these allegations emerged.

On his return, initially, he refused to comment on the matter. But when pressed on by the media to speak up, he gave a one-line comment: "A statement will be issued later on."

He later called the allegations of sexual harassment against him as "fabricated" and "spiced up".

"The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice. I could not reply earlier as I was on an official tour abroad," he said, adding, "accusations without evidence have become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action."

Akbar also questioned the veracity of the allegations, and said, "Why has this storm risen a few months before the general elections [the 2019 Lok Sabha election]? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill."

He then filed a criminal defamation suit against Priya Ramani.

STANDING THEIR GROUND

"Ms Ramani is not alone in her fight." The words began a request, made by 20 former staff members at the Asian Age and the Deccan Chronicle, that their testimonies against Akbar be considered in court.

"What Mr Akbar has demonstrated through his legal actions is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused immense pain and indeed harm to many, many women over the years," the 20 journalists willing to testify in court said in a statement.

Ramani, they said, "spoke not only about her personal experience but also lifted the lid on the culture of casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation that Mr Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age."

"We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case [against Ramani] to also consider testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us faced at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment," they said.

20 more lady journalists support Ramani

The journalists who wrote in support of Ramani are:

1) Meenal Baghel (Asian Age 1993-1996)

2) Manisha Pande (Asian Age 1993-1998)

3) Tushita Patel (Asian Age 1993-2000)

4) Kanika Gahlaut (Asian Age 1995-1998)

5) Suparna Sharma (Asian Age 1993-1996)

6) Ramola Talwar Badam (Asian Age 1994-1995)

7) Kaniza Gazari (Asian Age 1995-1997)

8) Malavika Banerjee (Asian Age 1995-1998)

9) A.T. Jayanthi (Asian Age 1995-1996)

10) Hamida Parkar (Asian Age 1996-1999)

11) Jonali Buragohain (Asian Age)

12) Sanjari Chatterjee (Asian Age)

13) Meenakshi Kumar (Asian Age 1996-2000)

14) Sujata Dutta Sachdeva (Asian Age 1999-2000)

15) Hoihnu Hauzel (Asian Age 1999-2000)

16) Reshmi Chakraborty (Asian Age, 1996-1998)

17) Kushalrani Gulab (Asian age 1993-1997)

18) Aisha khan (Asian Age 1995-1998)

19) Kiran Manral (Asian Age 1993-1996)

20) Christina Francis (Deccan Chronicle 2004-2011)


MORE SKELETONS FROM THE CLOSET

The final nail in the coffin was a blog -- Maybe MJ Akbar Didn’t Harass Me Years Ago. Maybe I Imagined it All -- in which another woman accused Akbar of sexual misconduct.

In the blog, Swati Gautam claimed Akbar met her in his hotel room dressed only in his bathrobe when she was a student in Kolkata and went to invite him as a guest speaker for an event at St Xavier’s College.

The door opened and the Bathrobe welcomed me. Mr Bathrobe was on the bed while I was kind of squirming on the single sofa in the room, unable to exactly fathom what in hell was the matter with the world which seemed perfectly normal sometime back, she wrote.

Another woman journalist, Tushita Patel, recounted her first meeting with the Union minister when she was a trainee in the Telegraph in 1992. She wrote that Akbar had found out her home phone number and would call her incessantly asking her to meet him.

You opened the door dressed only in your underwear. I stood at the door, stricken, scared and awkward. You stood there like the VIP man, amused by my fear. I did go in and carried on blabbering out of fear till you finally put on a bathrobe, she wrote in her account.

Patel, in the same blog, accused him of molesting her twice while she was working in Hyderabad in the Deccan Chronicle in 1993.

THE END?

MJ Akbar, finally, resigned ten days after Priya Ramani accused him. Speculation is rife that it was the Prime Minister's Office that intervened and made the junior minister do so. But, is it the end?

Pallavi Gogoi: I was raped by M.J. Akbar

Pallavi Gogoi

Pallavi Gogoi | As a young journalist in India, I was raped by M.J. Akbar. Here is my story. | November 1, 2018 | The Washington Post

Pallavi Gogoi is the chief business editor for NPR, USA. She is a U.S. citizen


The Washington Post Editor’s Note: We reached out to Sandeep Kapur, M.J. 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.”


The M.J. Akbar I knew — editor in chief of the Asian Age newspaper — was a brilliant journalist. He also used his position to prey on me…

I was 22 years old when I went to work at the Asian Age, where the vast majority of us were women. Most of us who joined the outlet were barely out of college. We hadn’t even learned the most basic tools of journalism. Working in New Delhi under Akbar, we were star-struck. He was famous, an author of two well-regarded political books and a leading editor. In the span of about a decade, he helped launch two hugely successful publications in India: Sunday magazine and the Telegraph daily newspaper. The Asian Age, an international paper, was then his latest venture.

Akbar, who was in his 40s, always made sure we were 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.

I was mesmerized by his use of language, his turns of phrase, wishing 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.

At 23, I became the editor of the op-ed page at the Asian Age...

But I would soon pay a very big price for doing a job I loved. My friend Tushita can still recall the moments after the first time Akbar assaulted me. 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. Tushita still remembers how my face looked that day. When she asked me what happened, I confided in her immediately. She was the only one I shared this with at that time.

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.

When I got back to Delhi, Akbar was livid, and he threatened to kick me out of the job if I resisted him again. But I didn’t quit the paper.

I used to arrive to work at 8 a.m., before most newspaper journalists. My aim was to get the op-ed pages ready by 11 a.m., when the rest of the staff came in. That way I could go out reporting as often as I could to escape the office. Soon after the Bombay incident, one story took me to a remote village a few hundred miles from Delhi to cover the appalling saga of a young couple who were hanged by members of the village because the lovers were from different castes. The assignment was to end in Jaipur. When I checked back, Akbar said I could come discuss the story in his hotel in Jaipur, far from Delhi.

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?

What was worse was that after that first time, his grip over me got tighter. I stopped fighting his advances because I felt so helpless. He continued to coerce me. For a few months, he continued to defile me sexually, verbally, emotionally. He would burst into loud rages in the newsroom if he saw me talking to male colleagues my own age. It was frightening.

Why didn’t I fight him then? I was always a fighter in all other aspects of my life. I cannot explain today how and why he had such power over me, why I succumbed. Was it because he was so much more powerful than I was? Was it because I didn’t know how to handle a situation that I never imagined possible with someone who was not supposed to do that? Was it because I was afraid of losing my job? And how to explain that to my honest parents, who lived far away? I just know that I hated myself then. And I died a little every day.

I continued to look for reporting assignments that would take me far away. I remember with such pride covering the December 1994 elections. I crisscrossed the state of Karnataka, far away from Delhi. I interviewed big-name state politicians, attended rallies, talked to villagers. The experience was my first time seeing the fruits of shoe-leather political reporting, because I was the one reporter who correctly predicted the outcome of the elections that year. After that, Akbar said he would send me overseas to either the United States or the United Kingdom as a reward. I got work visas for both countries. I was thrilled. And I thought that finally, the abuse would stop because I would be far away from the Delhi office. Except the truth was that he was sending me away so I could have no defenses and he could prey on me whenever he visited the city where I would be posted.

I recall the time he worked himself into a rage in the London office because he had seen me talk in a friendly manner to a male colleague. After my colleagues left work that evening, he hit me and went on a rampage, throwing things from the desk at me — a pair of scissors, a paperweight, whatever he could get his hands on. I ran away from the office and hid in Hyde Park for an hour. I remember telling my friend Tushita the next day. I spoke to my mom and my sister then, but couldn’t bear to share details. It was apparent to them how distraught I was, and they wanted me to come back.

I was in shreds — emotionally, physically, mentally. I knew I had to get out of London. 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.

I had a visa to be a foreign correspondent to the United States. There were at least a couple of senior editors at the same publication that I could work with, I thought. But Akbar was obviously still in charge and summoned me back to Bombay immediately.

I left. This time for good…

Akbar: Pallavi and he were in a "consensual relationship"

Was consensual: MJ Akbar rejects rape charge, wife comes out in his support |November 2, 2018| India Today


Akbar's lawyer denied the rape allegation, calling it false

Akbar in his separate statement denied the rape allegations and said that he and Pallavi were in a "consensual relationship that spanned several months".

This "consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on [the] best note," Akbar also said. Akbar also suggested that various others who worked with him and Pallavi then will bear testimony to his version of events.

Mrs Mallika Akbar: Neither Tushita nor Pallavi carried the haunted look of victims

Accuser is lying, says Akbar’s wife The Times of India


Around the same time that M J Akbar issued a statement denying Pallavi Gogoi’s allegation of harassment and rape, his wife Mallika came out with a separate statement defending him:

I have been silent all this while as a ‘me too’ campaign has been unleashed against my husband, Mr M J 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. More than twenty years ago, Pallavi Gogoi caused unhappiness and discord in our home. I learned of her and my husband’s involvement through her late night phone calls and her public display of affection in my presence. In her flaunting the relationship, she caused anguish and hurt to my entire family. 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.

Sriparna Ray questions Mrs. Mallika Akbar's defence

Sriparna Ray |An open letter to Mallika Akbar| 3.11.18| The Telegraph, India


Smearing another woman will not establish your husband’s stainless character

The word consensual has been bandied about in multiple instances of rape and sexual assault.

Dear Mallika Akbar,

While what you and your husband, M.J. Akbar, are saying in your statements might be the truth, and Pallavi Gogoi’s account might be a lie, as you have stated, I am struck by the subtext lurking in your lines.

You claim, as does your husband, that Pallavi Gogoi and he were in a consensual relationship. It could well be true, but rape is rape, whether the relationship is consensual or not. Even if a woman says no to a man or expresses discomfort on only one occasion (and agrees to sleep with him any number of times), he cannot force himself on her.

Your choice of words is curious. For instance, you say the #MeToo campaign has been “unleashed” on your husband, thereby overturning the vocabulary of assault.

Would you describe your husband’s lawsuit on Priya Ramani as a kind of unleashing as well? With a battalion of lawyers in his arsenal, I would think the aggression compass is turned more towards him than her.

See also

Acid attacks: India

Age of consent in India

Crimes against children: India

Crimes against women: India

Eve teasing: India

Juvenile delinquency in India Especially the section 'Rape by juveniles'

Juveniles, benefits and privileges of

Premarital sex

Rape definitions unique to India

Rape in India: longer- term statistics, analyses

Rapes in India: annual statistics

Rapes in India: Compensation and help for survivors

Rapes in India: court verdicts

Rapes in India: the legal position after 2013

Sexual harassment in India's media, entertainment, advertising industries; academics

Sexual harassment: India

M J Akbar

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