Union Minister MJ Akbar resigns over #MeToo allegations

Larry Hoffman
October 14, 2018

The #Metoo movement of women speaking out about sexual violence has transformed perceptions of women as survivors, lifted veils of shame and stigma, empowered women to come forward, revealed the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault and put men's behavior under scrutiny, observers say.

The Modi government is yet to issue a formal statement on the matter.

Other female journalists who have levelled allegations against Akbar include Prerna Singh Bindra, Sujata Anandan, Shuma Raha, Harinder Baweja and Anju Bharti. The opposition Congress party and the government's Minister for Women & Child Development, Maneka Gandhi, said the allegations against Akbar should be investigated. She claimed that while she was interning at The Asian Age newspaper, whose Editor was MJ Akbar at that time, "he shoved his tongue down her throat". He is yet to make a statement on the allegations against him.

Also on October 8, journalist Sandhya Menon shared screenshots of her conversation with two women claiming that actor Rajat Kapoor harassed them over the phone. She wrote: "In this case, #MeToo". She had written: "You are an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer".

"Women understand we have to have women's voices sitting at the table or we're going to continue to be disrespected and treated as if we don't count and as second-class citizens by the old white men that are in office right now", she said.

Stating that these allegations have caused irreparable damage to his reputation, the BJP Rajya Sabha MP said, "Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action". However, he did not indicate any decision to step down from his position in the cabinet, contrary to media reports.

"But I think that it is for the gentleman concerned to issue a statement, not for me, because I was personally not present there".

The Network of Women in Media group called it a "watershed moment for all of us in journalism", and said it encouraged more women to "document their accounts without fear or inhibitions". FIRs are registered on such evidence. Following similar accusations by other women, Chakraborty apologized on Twitter saying, "It's a little too late, but I am sorry". I would not dismiss it. However, that doesn't take away the merit of the #MeToo movement, which has given courage to women to speak about their ordeal despite that it might cost them their career, or harm reputation, and even attract social stigma especially in a conservative country like ours. "It would have been better if the allegations were made when the alleged crime took place, and not after 20 years", he said.

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