#MeToo scores a hit as M J Akbar quits ministry

#MeToo-stung journalist-politician M J Akbar on Wednesday resigned as the Minister of State for External Affairs.

 

He resigned from the Narendra Modi government after several women journalists over the past 10 days took to Twitter, accusing him of inappropriately behaving with them or sexually harassing them when he was leading the editorial wings of the media organisations that they wanted to work for or worked for.

Akbar said he was resigning from the office of the Minister of State for External Affairs in order to continue to defend himself against the allegations in the court of law in his “personal capacity”.

The prime minister forwarded his resignation to President Ram Nath Kovind, who accepted the same.

Clamour for Akbar’s resignation had grown louder over the past few days, not only from the Opposition, journalists, social organisations and Twitteratti, but also from within the ruling BJP and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Akbar was sworn into the Union Council of Ministers on July 5, 2016.

“Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusation levied against me, also in a personal capacity,” Akbar said in a statement. The minister was referring to the criminal defamation complaint he filed in a Delhi court on Monday against journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first to accuse him of inappropriately behaving with her during a job interview at a hotel in Mumbai in mid-1990s.

“As women, we feel vindicated by M J Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court,” Ramani posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Akbar was in Nigeria when the #MeToo campaign stung him back in India.

Apart from Ramani, several other women journalists — Prerna Singh Bindra, Ghazala Wahab, Shutapa Paul, Anju Bharti, Suparna Sharma, Shuma Raha, Malini Bhupta, Kanika Gahlout, Kadambari M Wade, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Ruth David — came out with more or less similar allegations against him. He, however, went on with his itinerary and visited Equatorial Guinea. He returned to New Delhi on Sunday, but contrary to speculation, did not resign immediately. Akbar had then issued a statement terming the allegations as baseless. He also moved the court against Ramani on Monday.

However, he resigned on Wednesday after the BJP top brass nudged him to do so.

A section of the ruling party has been concerned over the extent of the adverse impact its inaction on the issue could have on its image, particularly with Assembly polls in five states scheduled to take place in November and December and the parliamentary elections less than a year away. Some of the party leaders and senior members of the Union Cabinet are understood to have argued that if Akbar was allowed to continue even after such serious allegations, it might send out a wrong message about the BJP’s stand on issues involving rights and dignity of women.

The RSS, too, endorsed the #MeToo movement on social media with the organisation’s joint general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale tweeting a post by Aakhi Das, Director for Public Policy (India, South and Central Asia) in Facebook Inc, supporting the campaign. Rashmi Das, a former leader of BJP’s student wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, wrote in a news portal last week, arguing that the ruling party’s silence on the allegation against Akbar went against RSS tenets.

Akbar had a long career in media before he started dabbling in politics.


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#MeToo scores a hit as M J Akbar quits ministry

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