New Delhi : A US-based journalist of Indian origin recently wrote in a blog piece on Washington Post that she had been raped by editor-turned-politician MJ Akbar years ago when he was the Editor-in-Chief at Asian Age. Akbar’s lawyer has reportedly dismissed the accusation as ‘false’.
In her opinion piece for the American news outlet, she writes that the recent accusations levelled against Akbar by other women ‘made my head spin.’ She writes that she was 22 when she began working for Asian Age in a newsroom where a majority of the employees were women. “Working in New Delhi under Akbar, we were star-struck. He was famous, an author of two well-regarded political books and a leading editor. Akbar, who was in his 40s, always made sure we were aware of his superior journalistic skills. He marked our copy with his red-ink-filled Mont Blanc pen, crumpled our printouts and often threw them in the garbage bin, as we shuddered. There was never a day when he didn’t shout at one of us at the top of his voice. We rarely measured up to his standards.”
She recounts that at 23, she became the editor of the op-ed page and it was in late spring or summer of 1994 that the first incident of harassment occurred. “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, adding that she recounted the incident to a colleague who was also a close friend. “The second incident was a few months later, when I was summoned to Bombay to help launch a magazine. He called me to his room at the fancy Taj hotel, again to see the 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, tears streaming down. That evening, I explained the scratches to a friend by telling her I had slipped and fallen at the hotel.”
She then states that Akbar had even threatened to sack her if she resisted him again.
The third incident, according to her, is when Akbar raped her. Recounting that she had gone to Jaipur for a news report, she writes she was called to Akbar’s hotel room to discuss work. “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?”
The woman remembers that the incidents took a massive toll on her. “I was in shreds — emotionally, physically, mentally,” she writes about a certain incident in London when Akbar had allegedly hit her and hurled office stationaries towards her. It is after this that, she writes, she quit the job and re-started her career in the US.
While she reflects back on the time spent in Asian Age with horror, she writes that she is now a US citizen who has re-discovered her love for journalism.
The woman’s re-telling of what reportedly happened with her is likely to come as yet another blow to Akbar who is already facing allegations of harassment from several women who were his juniors at Asian Age. Akbar – who resigned as minister of state for external affairs – has maintained he is innocent and is confident the truth will come to the fore. According to Washington Post, his lawyer has expressly denied charges made against Akbar by the woman.