Denying the charges of rape levelled against him by a US-based journalist, former Union Minister M J Akbar Friday claimed that he had a “consensual relationship” spanning several months with Pallavi Gogoi, but it ended “perhaps not on the best note”.
“Somewhere around 1994, Ms. Pallavi Gogoi and I entered into consensual relationship that spanned several months. This relationship gave rise to talk and would later cause strife in my home life as well. This consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on best note,” Akbar said in a statement to news agency ANI.
In a column for The Washington Post, Gogoi, who is presently the Chief Business Correspondent at National Public Radio (NPR), accused Akbar of raping her while she was working as the Op-Ed editor of The Asian Age in India two decades ago. In the column, she recounted the alleged sexual assault by Akbar after she joined the newspaper as a 22-year-old.
Terming Gogoi’s allegations “false”, Akbar said: “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 behavior of Ms. Pallavi Gogoi, give any one of them the impression that she was working under, or in any way, under duress.”
Mallika, Akbar’s wife, also came out in support of her husband, and admitted that his relationship with Gogoi had caused “unhappiness and discord” in their home. In a statement that was given to ANI, she said that she has been a mute spectator while the ‘me too’ campaign was “unleashed” against her husband. Mallika said in the statement that she knew of her husband’s relationship due to Gogoi’s calls, and public displays of affection in her presence.
Speaking about an Asian Age party that took place in their home, Mallika said it was crowded with young journalists and she watched with “mortification and pain” as Akbar and Gogoi danced close together. Akbar’s wife said she had confronted him at the time, and he “decided to prioritise his family”.
Referring to Gogoi, Mallika said: “In her flaunting the relationship, she caused anguish and hurt to my entire family. I don’t know Pallavi’s reasons for telling this lie, but a lie it is.”
Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur had earlier denied Gogoi’s allegations in the column stating that “these [incidents and allegations] are false and expressly denied.” The denial was added as an editor’s note in The Washington Post column.
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. Akbar stated that Ramani’s alleged “defamatory articles” on him were a “figment of imagination” and intended to “malign” his reputation.
Last month, Akbar had to resign from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment in the wake of the raging #MeToo campaign in India.
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