Scribe accuses Akbar of rape, wife says 'lie'

The Washington Post.

Akbar’s lawyer Sandeep Kapur said: “My client states that these (allegations) are false and expressly denied”. Gogoi said that Akbar, the editor in chief of the Asian Age newspaper at that time, was a brilliant journalist but used his position to prey on her. “What I am about to share are the most painful memories of my life. I have shelved them away for 23 years,” she said, detailing how Akbar physically and mentally harassed her for years while working at the Asian Age newspaper from New Delhi to Mumbai to Jaipur to London. Gogoi said she was 22 when she joined the Asian Age. She was star-struck working under Akbar. She was mesmerised by his use of language, his turns of phrase and took all the verbal abuse. At 23, Gogoi became the editor of the op-ed page which was a big responsibility at a young age, she said. “But I would soon pay a very big price for doing a job I loved. “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 alleged. The second incident was a few months later when she was summoned to Mumbai to help launch a magazine, she claimed. “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 wrote in the Post. When she got back to Delhi, Akbar threatened to kick her out of the job if she resisted him again. But she didn’t quit the paper, she said. One story took her to a remote village a few hundred miles from Delhi and the assignment was to end in Jaipur. When she checked back, Akbar said she could come discuss the story in his hotel in Jaipur, she claimed. “In his hotel room, even though I fought him, he was physically more powerful. He ripped off my clothes and raped me,” she alleged, adding that instead of reporting him to the police, she was filled with shame. “I didn’t tell anyone about this then. Would anyone have believed me? I blamed myself,” Gogoi said. Gogoi claimed that Akbar’s grip over her got tighter. For a few months, he continued to defile her sexually, verbally, emotionally. He would burst into loud rages in the newsroom if he saw her talking to male colleagues. It was frightening. “I cannot explain today how and why he had such power over me, why I succumbed. Was it because I was afraid of losing my job? I just know that I hated myself then. And I died a little every day,” she said. She said that she continued to look for reporting assignments that would take her far away. Gogoi recalled covering the December 1994 elections. For her excellent work, Akbar said he would send her either to the US or the UK as a reward. “I thought that finally, the abuse would stop because I would be far away from the Delhi office. Except the truth was that he was sending me away so I could have no defences and he could prey on me whenever he visited the city,” she said. Gogoi alleged that Akbar once worked himself into a rage in the London office after he saw her talking to a male colleague. He hit her and went on a rampage, throwing things from the desk at her a pair of scissors or whatever he could get his hands on. She ran away and hid in Hyde Park. “I was in shreds emotionally, physically, mentally,” she said. Akbar summoned her back to Mumbai after which she left the job and joined Dow Jones in New York. “Today, I am a US citizen. I am a wife and mother. I found my love for journalism again. I picked up my life, piece by piece. My own hard work, perseverance and talent led me from Dow Jones to Business Week, USA Today the Associated Press and CNN. Today, I’m a leader at National Public Radio. I know that I do not have to succumb to assault to have a job and succeed. “Over the years, I have not brought up Akbar in conversations. I’ve always felt that Akbar is above the law and justice doesn’t apply to him. I felt he would never pay the price for what he had done to me,” she said. He has called these allegations “baseless and wild” and has filed a lawsuit against one of the journalists who have spoken out, she said. “It doesn’t surprise me. He feels he is entitled to make up his own version of ‘truth’ today, just like he felt entitled to our bodies then,” Gogoi added. (PTI)]]>

#She Too – ‘My Employer Spiked My Drink’

Seema (name changed) was gang raped by her employer and two other men five years ago. Being the sole breadwinner in a family of two young brothers and a mother, she accepted the money offered in return for not filing a police complaint. However, she believes she can never have a meaningful, healthy relationship with a man ever.   Five years ago, as I stepped into adulthood, my life was different. Maybe it was another lifetime. I grew up in Khursheed Nagar, Lucknow. My father was a dhobi by profession. The family income was just enough to support my younger brothers’ education and my beautician course. As I was growing up, I was aware of the male gaze that would pierce through my clothes, making me squirm. My mother told me to dismiss the attention and live with it. I had my family, my father – my life support. Then one day, he came back home coughing uncontrollably. He had been unwell for a very long time. Doctors diagnosed him with tuberculosis. Within the next few months, his body became very frail and he passed away. My support system was gone.


ALSO IN #SheToo SERIES: Silent Victims Of Harassment
Verbal Abuse Of Construction Workers
‘Saab Raped Me When Madam Was Out Of Town’
‘Low-Cost Spas Threat Therapists As Prostitutes’
Putting Up With Nosy Parkers And Peeping Toms
People Consider A Young Widow Easy Meat
‘Beauty Salon Is Not A Pickup Point’

To run the household, my unlettered mother started working as a domestic help. My beautician’s course had almost come to an end, so I started looking for a job to assist my mother. What I didn’t realise then was that my father’s death had made us vulnerable to the vultures waiting to prey on our desperate condition. A distant relative approached my mother and offered to get me a job with a friend who was looking for a saleswoman. ‘Your daughter is good-looking. She will get a job easily,’ he said. This man turned out to be a pimp. He referred me to his friend, who ran a travel agency, and part of his business was to sell holiday packages. I was trained for barely a week after which he said I had mastered the art of persuasion. My employer then asked me to accompany him to what he called ‘client meetings’. I trusted him and eager to help his business prospects, went with him during office hours. After a few months, he called me late in the evening one day to accompany him to a ‘big client’. This was the first time I ventured out this late with him. But since I had been working with him for a while, my mother too did not find anything odd in the timing of the meeting. He took me to a shady hotel. I followed him into a room reeking of alcohol and smoke. Two men were sitting inside drinking and laughing. A sudden silence ensued as I entered the room. I sensed they were scanning me from head to toe. Something was not right. I sat on the edge of a chair, looking for an opportune moment to take leave of the room. They offered me a drink. I refused. The men then insisted I took a soft drink instead. More to ease my dry throat, like a fool, I gulped it down. Then it got dark, a blackout. When I woke up, I was alone in the room. There were bruises all over my body and my clothes were strewn across the room. I felt a sharp pain in my private parts. What happened that night became clear to me. Those three men had taken turns to rape me, violate my body and crush my soul. It was still dark outside, maybe three or four in the morning. I rushed home; my mother was waiting for me, worried sick. When I narrated the incident to my mother, she went numb. This vegetative state continued for a couple of days and then we decided to contact the relative but all in vain. Meanwhile, my ‘boss’ kept calling me incessantly, but I kept rejecting his calls. A few days later, we gathered the courage to approach the police. As we reached the police station, the word about our decision to file an FIR reached my employer. Several of my relatives suddenly reached the station and asked us to review our decision. One of them made an offer: accept ₹50,000 and keep our mouths shut and honour intact, he said. Meanwhile, my erstwhile employer used all kinds of pressure tactics from threats to my life to kidnapping my brothers. My mother, an illiterate woman who was intimidated by foul-mouth policemen, gave in. She was still coping with the passing away of my father, so I was not surprised that she buckled under the pressure. My mother and I cried ourselves to sleep every single night thereafter for a week. For the next few months, I could not muster the courage to go out of my house. My sudden ‘house arrest’ made my neighbours suspicious. They started questioning my mother. So, I finally decided to venture out and look for a fresh job. For the past couple of years, I have been working with a beauty parlour as a sales executive. But my past still haunts me and the scars left on my soul will never fade away for the rest of my life. I find myself unable to deal with menfolk and avoid taking up home assignments. Meanwhile, life goes on.]]>

#SheToo – Silent Victims of Harassment

The lure of money drew Benu, 48, from rural West Bengal to Delhi for work. A few months in the city, she discovered the megapolis was full of sexual predators. Young lads of landlords who provided cheap accommodation to policemen providing verification IDs and employees at housing societies, a migrant woman had to be on guard 24X7. She herself was accosted by a widowed employer who offered money for her ‘cooperation’. She was repulsed, yet could never gather courage to leave the city. Benu opens up:   Life of a housemaid holds valuable lessons in survival. You know there are men, there are ‘friendly’ men and there are beasts posing as men. I once cooked for an elderly couple in a gated community in Mayur Vihar (East Delhi) when the lady of the house succumbed to Cancer. Within two months of her death, I saw a changed man in the ‘Uncle’ (that’s what I called him). He would chat me up, open the door but will not leave the passage, used the water-dispenser when I was washing dishes and nudged me at every pretence … the signs were perceptible. I gave him the benefit of the doubt till one day he simply blocked my way and forcibly held my hand. “I need someone to take care of me,” he began. “I will pay money. If I find you good, I can even marry you.” I felt repulsed by this slobbering old dog. But let me start from my arrival in Delhi the megacity. I belong to (North) 24 Pargana zilla in (West) Bengal and came to Delhi in search for money after my husband, a farm labourer, died of TB in 2009. A Christian group had helped some of the village women in training as housemaids and finding work for them. These women sent good money home and I was also tempted when one of them wanted a long leave and asked me to replace him for a month.


ALSO IN #SheToo SERIES: Verbal Abuse Of Construction Workers
‘Saab Raped Me When Madam Was Out Of Town’
‘Clients Often Treat Spa Therapists As Prostitutes’
Putting Up With Nosy Parkers And Peeping Toms
‘People Consider A Young Widow Easy Meat
‘My Employer Spiked My Drink And Raped Me’
‘Beauty Salon Is Not A Pickup Point’

Delhi is a cham-chamata shahar (glittering mega city) where even nights are illuminated. I was awestruck. I used to take part in community ceremony for food preparation in my village and was considered a good cook. This was the reason my co-villager offered me the temporary job. Before handing me over the charge, she gave me a sagely advice, “Now that you are here, Benu, you will never be able to leave this city. But remember: avoid two types of men when you seek work – single men and old men.” How prophetic she turned out to be years later, I wonder! After the first month of work as a substitute, I was able to save Rs500 and send back home to my son (20), who did odd jobs in and around the village. I wanted him to fix our roof with the money, but lured by the earnings, he used the money to reach me here, saying that he too wanted to work in Delhi. Such was the lure of Rs 500 back in our village. I rented a room in Chilla village of east Delhi. This rural-urban settlement supplies housemaids and cheap labour to rich (actually, a middle-class) housing colonies nearby. Two households hired me for cooking and dish-washing. The first family belonged to a working young couple, who were always in rush while the other was a retired couple whose children had settled abroad. It all looked good till I found the dark underbelly of city life. The idle sons of Gujjar landlords at Chilla village targeted good-looking (read fair-complexioned) women in the tenant community. They would often get the man of the house drunk and then had their way. It was common knowledge that if these lads set eyes on a woman, it would be impossible to live in the vicinity and stay unharmed. The sexual exploitation did not end there. All maids are bound to make an identity card, duly signed by local police, to be submitted to the gated community they work for. This meant lewd looks and remarks while applying for the ‘card’ which often turned into brutal physical violations, first from the police and later routinely from the society guards. Then there were other male employees in the society up for grabs. One of my friends, a new recruit who did not know how to operate a lift, was accosted and molested by the society gardener in the lift, leaving her shocked and teary-eyed. I was thankful to be a woman of short height and dark complexion. But the contentment was short-lived. The woman in the retired household was diagnosed with cancer and hospitalised. I was 40 when I lost my husband, so I could empathise with the old man who would soon be widowed. Cancer ‘matlab maut’ (means death), and it happened. I pitied the lonely life of Uncle. However, in less than two months, as visitors inflow died, I saw a changed man in the ‘Uncle’. He would chat me up, open the door but will not leave the passage, used the water-dispenser when I was washing dishes and nudged me at every pretence … the signs were perceptible. Then, one day he simply blocked my way and forcibly held my hand. “I need someone to take care of me,” he began. “I will pay money. If I find you good, I can even marry you.” I wanted to run. Then, I thought the money I would lose if I quit. The dilemma ended as the old man moved another step. On an impulse, I just shook his hand and ran away. That night in bed at home, a rainbow of thought did not let me sleep. Could this happen to a woman in her late forties? What if I return to work? Was he serious when he offered to marry a woman 20 years younger? And then I remembered the advice of my old friend. Trust not a single man and an old man. This man was both. I approached that friend again. She had the remedy. “Go to Nancy didi,” she told me and I did. Nancy didi, a young widower living in the same housing society, heard me out and gave me several options: take him to police or report the matter to society office, with her backing. I am illiterate but having lived in Delhi for nearly a decade I know that these actions will force me out of livelihood. I was worried what will I tell my son about it. I asked Didi to merely safeguard me from that lecher in future, as I would come to work there every day. Didi took my phone and said she had put her number on speed dial, whatever that meant, and asked me ring her if the old man ever stalked me again. “Or just rush to my house,” she said. Thankfully, I never required to do either in the last two years but I am thankful to Nancy Didi for instilling this confidence in me. But I often think if a 65-year old can give me such sleepless nights, think of the trauma that goes into the mind of housewives raped routinely by randy boys in our colony or women troubled daily by society employees and lustful house owners. (The identity of certain persons and locations were changed on request. The original conversation in Hindi was transcribed by LokMarg desk)]]>

Akbar sues Priya Ramani for Defamation

Priya Ramani, the journalist to first name M.J. Akbar, has said “truth is the best defence” and she is not worried about the possibility of a defamation case.https://t.co/naH7dkZMqp

— The Telegraph (@ttindia) October 15, 2018 Whilst it is apparent that the accused has resorted to a series of maliciously serious allegations which she is diabolically and viciously spreading in media, it is also apparent that false narrative against the complainant (Akbar) is being circulated in a motivated manner for the fulfilment of an agenda, the complaint said. It termed as “scandalous” the allegations made by Ramani against Akbar and said “very tone and tenor” are ex-facie defamatory and they have not only damaged his goodwill and reputation in his social circle but also affected Akbar’s reputation in the community and friends, family and colleagues and caused irreparable loss and tremendous distress. The complaint, filed through advocate Sandeep Kapur, seeks issuance of notice to Ramani under Section 499 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Section 500 of the IPC provides that an accused may be awarded two years jail term or fine or both in the event of conviction. Hours after returning from a trip to Africa, Akbar had termed allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him by several women as “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them. Akbar’s name cropped up on social media when he was in Nigeria. The women, who accused Akbar of sexual harassment, included Priya Ramani, Ghazala Wahab, Shuma Raha, Anju Bharti and Shutapa Paul. (PTI) ]]>

#MeToo: Alok Nath files ₹1 defamation suit

Maine Pyaar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun!, Hum Saath Saath Hain and Vivah. His lawyer Ashok Sarogi had last Thursday refuted the allegations as “baseless” and “devoid of any merit”. The complaint filed by the couple says, “The complainants (Nath and Ashu) have on October 12 addressed a letter to the Amboli police seeking action under sections 499 (defamation) and 500 of the Indian Penal Code against Nanda.” The police, however, said since the offences are non-cognisable in nature, it would be appropriate if an order is passed by the court concerned, reads the complaint. “We are, hence, seeking the court to pass necessary direction to the Amboli police station in-charge to take cognisance of our complaint and hold an inquiry,” the couple said in the complaint. “We have suffered grave and irreparable loss, harm and injury which could never be compensated in terms of money,” they said. Because of Nanda’s post, which although did not name Nath but subsequently he was named by others, Ashu and Nath have been victimised unnecessarily by way of defamation of their reputation in the society, the complaint said. “Without commenting on anything about her (Nanda), the fact remains that all such occasions, such as the #MeToo campaign, are being encashed by way of utilising the social media for the purpose of either gaining some name and fame or for the purpose of defaming the reputation of a person,” it alleged. Because of the “baseless allegations”, Ashu and Alok Nath were “terrorised” to even step out of their house as people are looking at them with a “different attitude”, the complaint added. In a statement, Nanda’s lawyer Dhruti Kapadia said, “The so called defamation proceedings are not served upon us as yet – however and whatever the proceedings will be, we will deal with everything following due process of law.” The lawyer said they are awaiting decisions of various associations where Nanda has filed her complaint like Cine & TV Artistes Association (CINTAA), Screen Writers Association (SWA) and Indian Film & Television Directors Association (IFTDA). “Pursuant to decisions we will further decide our next step of action,” the statement said. (PTI)]]>