New Delhi: Even as Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar has filed a defamation suit against Priya Ramani, the journalist who first called him out as a sexual harasser, another scribe has spoken out against the journalist-turned-politician, said reports on Tuesday. (Also read: NSUI National President Steps Down Over Sexual Harassment Complaint)
In an open letter for Scroll, journalist Tushita Patel, who worked with Akbar for the Deccan Chronicle, has recalled three separate incidents where the minister allegedly harassed her. In 1992, she says, Akbar kept calling her up at her home number till she gave in. This, she says, happened while she worked for Telegraph in Kolkata and he was in town. She said that she was 22 and when she accepted Akbar’s invitation to visit him at his hotel, she was stunned to find him open his door “dressed only in underwear”. “I stood at the door, stricken, scared and awkward… Does greeting a 22-year-old in a state of undress pass your test of morality? Is that not ‘doing’ something?” she wrote in her letter.
By next year, Patel says, she had joined Deccan Chronicle and Akbar was its editor-in-chief. She says he called her again to his hotel room, ostensibly to discuss her pages but once she got there, he grabbed her and kissed her. When she started avoiding her, she alleges he summoned her and meted out a similar treatment. “Defeated, humiliated, blinded by hurt and tears, I stayed in that room till I stopped crying. I waited till you had left the building, went to the bathroom, washed my face and carried on to finish my page,” she says.
She goes on to say that she would not back down in the face of “legal intimidation”; Akbar reportedly has a battery of 97 lawyers to defend him. While denying all charges, he claimed it was a political conspiracy ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Patel says, “We are not confused, conflicted or vulnerable any more. Our time to speak is now – when we don’t have to run to a police station to lodge a complaint before anyone would give us a hearing.” She signs off with a note of warning. She says there were more women destroyed by Akbar’s “lust and power trip”. “You know who we are. You’ll recognise us when you see us at the barricades.”