In the latest allegation against editor-turned-politician M J Akbar, NPR's (National Public Radio) chief Business editor Pallavi Gogoi has accused him of sexual harassment and rape in 1994 when she was working with The Asian Age as an op-editor.
The journalist gave a first-person account of the sexual harassment she faced in a November 1 article for The Washington Post.
Pallavi, who was just 23 then was made the Op-Ed page editor, writes: “It was a big responsibility at a young age. But I would soon pay a very big price for doing a job I loved."
The first incident she describes, was at his office when he tried to kiss her forcibly as a way to applaud her efforts after she made her first op-ed page. She says in her column: "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. "
The second incident was in Mumbai at The Taj hotel, where they had gone for a magazine launch. Pallavi recalls being called to his room, forced upon and then being scratched when she fought back.
M J Akbar threatened to throw her out if she again resisted his advances but Pallavi did not quit.
The third instance occurred when Akbar asked her to visit his hotel room for 'work' discussion in Jaipur. She alleges that M J Akbar ripped her clothes off and raped her. Filled with shame, Pallavi decided not to report it.
After a few months, she was posted at their London office as a 'reward' for her coverage of the 1994 elections. Instead of an escape route, this became a method to prey on her in a foreign land, where she had no defence. Things got worse when one day at their London office M J Akbar spotted Pallavi laughing and talking to a male colleague. He screamed, hit her and went on a rampage, throwing things from the desk --- a pair of scissors, a paper-weight, anything he could lay his hands upon. After months of torture and sexual harassment, Pallavi finally quit.
Akbar's lawyer has refused the allegations, claiming they never happened.
Gogoi’s allegations come two days after Akbar appeared in court to record evidence in his defamation suit against journalist Priya Ramani, the first woman to level sexual harassment allegations against him.
Ramani’s allegations were reported while Akbar, who was junior minister in the Ministry of External Affairs, was abroad on an assignment. He resigned from his post in the ministry on October 17.
Over the last fortnight, about 20 women have come forward to narrate their experiences of alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Akbar.