Pallavi Gogoi, a U.S based journalist, currently working as the Business Editor of the National Public Radio of United States, shared a miserable story of her life in a column in The Washington Post. Gogoi publicly revealed that she was also amongst the ones who were sexually harassed by the veteran journalist and former Minister of State for External Affairs, M J Akbar. In the post, she describes how she was mesmerized by Akbar’s work and inspired to be a journalist like him.

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She worked under the Editorship of M J Akbar in a national daily ‘The Asian Age’. She was in her early twenties and learning about journalism when Akbar ruined her work experience with every possible chance he got.

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.” She writes about the beginning of harassment by Akbar.

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After the incident, Akbar repeatedly tried to assault her and finally raped her when both of them were in a remote village for work purpose.

The assignment was to end in Jaipur. When I checked back, Akbar said I could come to 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.” She adds.

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No doubt, Akbar was a brilliant journalist who worked at prominent media houses and also launched two leading publications in the country: ‘Sunday magazine’ and a daily newspaper,’The Telegraph’.

He has been reported by over 15 women under sexual misconduct. According to sources, while he was a senior journalist, he used to target young ambitious women and used to prey on them. Because of the fear of losing their jobs, women didn’t speak up at that time but the Me too movement started in India, especially in the media industry, has evoked the confidence in women.

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In response to the allegations against him, Akbar has termed them as “figment of imagination” and he has also filed a defamation case against Priya Ramani, the first amongst the fearless women to come out and speak against him and his outrageous deeds. In response to Gogoi’s shared story, his lawyer stated that “these [incidents and allegations] are false and expressly denied” and Akbar’s latest statement is that of him being in a consensual relationship with his former colleague Pallavi Gogoi.

Akbar’s wife has come out in support of her husband claiming that both Akbar and Pallavi were in a consensual relationship and that their relationship was the cause of unhappiness in their family.

With over 15 females exposing the hideous truth behind the former Minister of State for External Affairs, it’s high time for legal actions to be taken against him and all those who have been accused of sexual harassment. Enough has been spoken and discussed about the atrocious behavior of these potential perpetrators. It’s time for the police to carry out a probe into the cases and convict the guilty.

It’s time for us to not fear the wrong and speak up against them, even if they are powerful. Pallavi expresses her concerns in the post and says that she never thought Akbar could be exposed. Even though it’s 23 years later, Akbar has been accused of his wrongdoings and will be punished for the same once proven guilty.

Anyone who has been harassed physically, sexually, mentally or emotionally has all the right to report against the culprit and seek legal help for the same, without any fright.

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