#MeToo: MJ Akbar gets support in female colleague
A former woman colleague of journalist and politician MJ Akbar told a Delhi court on Monday that his reputation has been “destroyed” and “damaged irreparably” due to the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled by scribe Priya Ramani.
Joyeeta Basu, the editor of Sunday Guardian, who appeared as a witness to support defamation case filed by Akbar, told Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Samar Vishal that Ramani posted all her tweets “intentionally with a purpose to harm” Akbar’s “reputation and goodwill”.
“I have seen tweets by Priya Ramani dated October 10, 2018 and October 13, 2018. I have overcome my doubts but I know from the number of questions raised by people, I know personally that his reputation has been destroyed and damaged irreparably,” Basu told the court which is recording the statements of witnesses produced by Akbar.
Akbar, who resigned as Union minister on October 17, had filed a private criminal defamation complaint in a court here against Ramani after his name cropped up on the social media when he was in Nigeria, as the #MeToo campaign raged on in India.
Ramani has accused Akbar of sexual misconduct around 20 years ago.
Basu, in her statement, said: “After reading these tweets by Ramani, I believe that this vilification was conducted and the tweets were published intentionally by Ramani with a purpose to harm Akbar’s good reputation and goodwill in the eyes of society.”
The journalist said that she has worked with Akbar for 20 years and had not heard anything “untoward” from the staff of the organisation where they worked together. He was a public figure who was held in high esteem, she said.
“I have always held Mr Akbar in high regard. He has been perfectly professional in his dealings with me. He has always been a tough taskmaster, a thorough professional and a brilliant teacher,” Basu said.
She said she considered him to be “a brilliant journalist, a scholarly writer and a thorough gentleman with an impeccable reputation”.
Basu said that she was “shocked, disappointed, embarrassed” to see Ramani’s tweets against Akbar and “in spite of my experience with him, his image, his reputation took a beating in my eyes on reading these tweet/article”.
She said: “It was aggravated during my interaction with friends and colleagues who had read and heard about the widely publicised tweets and articles and asked me whether he was really like that? They questioned his character and said that his image has taken a severe beating and had been lowered in their eyes. They said that his reputation had been permanently damaged as far as they were concerned.”
The court has now posted the matter for next hearing on December 7, when it is likely to record the statement of another witness named by Akbar in his complaint.
Akbar had earlier told the court in his statement that an “immediate damage” has been caused to him due to the “scurrilous”, concocted and false allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him.
Multiple women have come out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by him while he was working as a journalist.
He had termed the allegations “false, fabricated and deeply distressing” and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.
Expressing her readiness to fight the defamation allegations, Ramani had said, “Rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment.”
Earlier, Akbar’s wife Mallika had defended him against the wide-ranging allegations of sexual misconduct against her husband.
Mallika Akbar said that a “me too campaign” has been “unleashed” against her husband and that she needs to speak up now after Pallavi Gogoi, a US-based, India born journalist, accused Akbar of raping her two decades ago. Akbar had issued a separate statement denying the rape charges.
Mallika had said that her husband had cheated on her with Pallavi Gogoi, who “caused unhappiness and discord” in the Akbars’ home. Mallika said that MJ Akbar chose to “prioritise” his family after she confronted him with evidence of his extra-marital relationship with Pallavi.
Mallika also said that Pallavi and Tushita Patel — who too has accused Akbar of sexual misconduct — often used to come to the Akbars’ home. “Neither carried the haunted look of victims of sexual assault.”