New Delhi : After a US-based journalist accused MJ Akbar of raping her over two decades ago, the former minister has told news agency ANI that the two were in a consensual relationship which "perhaps didn't end on a best note".
Over 20 former colleagues of MJ Akbar have called him out in the raging #MeToo movement. He sued one of them for defamation before resigning as junior foreign minister on October 17.
"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 strife in my home life as well. This consensual relationship ended, perhaps not on best note," the journalist-turned-politician told ANI.
He added, "People who worked with me and knew both of us have indicated that they would be happy to bear testimony to what is stated above and, at no stage, did the behaviour of Pallavi Gogoi give any one of them the impression that she was working under duress."
Mallika Akbar, who has been silent over allegations of sexual misconduct against her husband, agreed on the "consent" part of their alleged relationship and said that "more than 20 years ago, Pallavi Gogoi caused unhappiness and discord in our home".
"I learnt about their involvement through her late-night phone calls and her public display of affection in my presence. I had confronted my husband at the time and he decided to prioritize his family," Mallika Akbar said in a statement.
Pallavi Gogoi has written in The Washington Post detailing the times when her boss at The Asian Age, MJ Akbar, allegedly assaulted her. "I was in shreds -- emotionally, physically, mentally," she wrote.
MJ Akbar conceded that his lawyer got "a series of cryptic and non-specific questions from the American daily regarding incidents alleged to have taken place approximately 23 years ago" and said, "These allegations were false and were consequently denied."
Now an editor at the National Public Radio (NPR), Ms Gogoi had joined the newspaper when she was 22. A year later, she became the editor of the op-ed page, but ended up paying a "very big price" for the break, she said.
Pallavi Gogoi says she had confided in her friends -- Tushita and Suparna -- who were also allegedly harassed by the author-editor.
"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," Mallika Akbar added.