EDITORIAL | Sack Akbar

EDITORIAL | Sack Akbar

MJ Akbar’s position as a minister in the Modi government had become totally untenable after a series of accusations of sexual harassment levelled against him by women journalists who worked with him at different times in different offices. Since he did not resign on his own and has instead tried to brazen it out, the only option is for the prime minister to sack him from the ministry. The accounts given by the women show Akbar as a serial sexual offender and a predator, and his continuance in the government can only damage it. The prime minister and the BJP leadership had enough time to take a view of the allegations which are in the public realm for many days now. They may only be charges but they are credible, and the ring of truth in them cannot be missed. These are gender crimes, reported by those who were teenagers and young women when they were traumatised by a man several decades their senior and holding positions of power then, as he does now. Allowing such a person to continue in the ministry is not just insensitivity and evasion of responsibility but collusion in the crime and its cover-up. 

READ: Akbar opened door in underwear: Tushita Patel | #MeToo

Akbar has denied the charges, tried to shame the women, threatened to take legal action against them and actually issued a criminal defamation notice to one of them. These are standard intimidatory tactics of most men in power who are accused of crimes. The denials are clearly unconvincing and the imputation of a political conspiracy behind the accusations will not be believed even by the friends and supporters of the government. It should be noted that at least 15 women, within the country and outside, have independently made the charges and given specific accounts of how, when and where they were mistreated. It cannot be imagined that all of them colluded and made up stories just to malign the minister and his government before the elections.

READ: Journalist Ghazala Wahab refutes M J Akbar's statement

The charges included improper propositions, inappropriate words, unwanted physical contact and molestation. These are all crimes under the law. It is shameful that the former editor asked, what is the story, citing a statement by a woman that he “didn’t do it’’. He should have known that there are many sexual offences other than rape and molestation. A person facing these charges should have no place in the government. The principle that everybody is innocent till proved guilty before the law hardly applies here because he holds a public office of high responsibility. It is not just legality that is involved in this. In public perception, Akbar is not innocent and the charges have substance. Even Caesar’s junior ministers should be above suspicion.


Journalists stand by charges against M J Akbar

#MeToo: The 'Akbar' Nama