Responding to a fresh allegation against him by woman journalist Pallavi Gogoi who accused M.J. Akbar of raping her 23 years back, the former Union Minister of state for External Affairs, on Friday asserted that he was in consensual relationship with Pallavi and their relationship lasted for several months leading to acrimony in his married life.
Breaking her silence for the first time over the allegations levelled against her husband, Akbar’s wife Mallika backed Akbar’s claims of consensual relationship with Pallavi. Mallika said on Friday that her husband’s relationship with Pallavi caused a lot of unhappiness and discord in their marital life at that point of time as there was several late night phone calls and public display of affection between the two in her presence.
Both Pallavi and Akbar were colleagues in Asian Age. However, 23 years after they parted ways, Pallavi in an article published in the Washington Post narrated how Akbar had once raped her in a Jaipur hotel. Journalist Pallavi on November 1, wrote a detailed account of her alleged harassment in Asian Age about 23 years ago. The journalist, who is presently based in United States, has also claimed that she faced harassment at the hands of the former minister while working as the editor of the publication’s Op-Ed page at the age of 23.
This is the first time that a woman journalist has accused Akbar of rape, even though several cases of alleged sexual harassment against the former minister has cropped up under the #MeToo campaign.
Responding to Pallavi’s allegations, MJ Akbar in a media statement released on Friday said : “On October 29th, the Washington Post forwarded to my lawyers a series of cryptic and non-specific questions, regarding incidents alleged to have taken place approximately 23 years ago. These allegations were false and were consequently denied. On the morning of 2nd November, 2018, the Washington Post ran a piece written by Ms. Pallavi Gogoi, detailing false allegations of rape and violence against me. I have had occasion to read this article and it has become necessary, at this point in time, to bring certain facts to light.”
Akbar wrote: “Somewhere around 1994, Ms. Pallavi Gogoi and I entered into a consensual relationship that spanned several months. 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. Several people who worked with me and knew both of us have come forward to indicate that they would be happy to bear testimony to what is stated above and, at no stage, did the behaviour of Ms. Pallavi Gogoi, give any one of them the impression that she was working under, or in any way, under duress.”
He added that in the past few weeks, he has been subjected to a barrage of false and fabricated accusations, which he is now addressing.
Supporting Akbar’s statement, his wife Mallika in a media statement said: “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.”
Recalling an incident, Mallika said: “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. I don’t know Pallavi’s reasons for telling this lie but a lie it is.