Indian politician ‘ripped off my clothes and raped me’ years ago claims journalist
- Assault happened in the 1990s when alleged victim and the accused worked together at a newspaper in New Delhi
- Former junior foreign minister M.J. Akbar denies claims by Pallavi Gogoi, who now lives in the US
An Indian politician who resigned from the government last month after more than a dozen women accused him of sexual harassment, said on Friday he had a consensual relationship with a New York-based journalist who accused him of raping her.
Pallavi Gogoi, chief business editor at National Public Radio, wrote in a Washington Post column on Thursday that former junior foreign minister M.J. Akbar “ripped off my clothes and raped me” in a hotel room in India 23 years ago.
At the time, she and Akbar worked for the same newspaper. She said after the attack, Akbar continued to “defile me sexually, verbally, emotionally” for months.
Akbar has been one of the highest-profile targets of sex assault claims in India, although he claims he has been the subject of “a barrage of false and fabricated accusations”. He said Gogoi’s accusations of rape and violence were false.
“Somewhere around 1994, Ms Pallavi Gogoi and I entered into a consensual relationship that spanned several months,” Akbar said. “This relationship gave rise to talk and would later cause significant strife in my home life as well. This consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on the best note.”
Gogoi said in The Washington Post that she decided to write about the attack after seeing that several journalists had recently gone public about alleged sexual harassment by Akbar years ago.
Akbar denied those allegations and filed a criminal defamation suit against one of the accusers.
Gogoi wrote that her career had initially gone well at The Asian Age daily that Akbar edited. She became editor of the editorial page at the age of 23, a year after joining the paper.
“But I would soon pay a very big price for doing a job I loved,” said Gogoi.
“It must have been late spring or summer of 1994, and I had gone into his office … to show him the op-ed page I had created with what I thought were clever headlines,” she wrote. “He applauded my effort and suddenly lunged to kiss me. I reeled. I emerged from the office, red-faced, confused, ashamed, destroyed.”
Gogoi said a few months later she was sent to Mumbai to help launch a magazine. Akbar summoned her to his room at the fancy Taj hotel, she wrote, to see some 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.”
After returning to New Delhi, Gogoi said Akbar was “livid” and threatened to fire her if she resisted his advances.
During an assignment in Jaipur, Akbar asked her to discuss the story with him in his hotel room, where he once again pounced, she claims.
“Even though I fought him, he was physically more powerful. He ripped off my clothes and raped me,” she wrote in The Washington Post. “I didn’t tell anyone about this … Would anyone have believed me? I blamed myself. Why did I go to the hotel room?”
In the end, she says, she “stopped fighting his advances because I felt so helpless”.
“For a few months, he continued to defile me sexually, verbally, emotionally.”
She eventually got a visa to be a foreign correspondent to the United States, which she says was her chance to escape for good.
But Akbar’s wife Mallika, issued a statement in which she said Gogoi caused “unhappiness and discord in our home” through her involvement with her husband.
“I learned of her and my husband’s involvement through her late night phone calls and her public display of affection in my presence,” Mallika said. “In her flaunting the relationship, she caused anguish and hurt to my entire family.”
Several men in India’s entertainment, media and political worlds have been accused of offences ranging from harassment to rape over the past two months.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has formed a group of four cabinet ministers to suggest steps to address sexual harassment at work.
Reuters, The Washington Post