MJ Akbar: India minister quits after #MeToo allegations

Governance       Union Minister MJ Akbar resigns over sexual harassment charges
       
       	        The Print Team         17 October 2018

Journalist-turned-politician MJ Akbar has resigned as the Minister of State for External Affairs over allegations of sexual harassment levelled by several women as part of the MeToo movement. His resignation has come two days after he filed a defamation case against one of the accused, Priya Ramani.

"I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of minister of state (junior minister) for external affairs", he added. "I am deeply grateful to Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the external Affair Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country", his statement read. He then went on to file a criminal defamation case against Ramani, claiming her "defamatory articles" were a "figment of imagination", meant to "malign" his reputation.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said: "The CPI (M) has been saying from day one that it is morally untenable for M.J. Akbar to continue as Minister". "I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court". On Tuesday, the head of the Indian National Congress' national student union quit as women accused him of harassment.

His resignation comes in the wake of a series of allegations of sexual harassment levelled by at least 16 women.

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Priya Ramani, working in Asian age was the first woman to make allegations against Akbar. Highly-placed sources who did not wish to be identified, however, said the decision "came from the very top" and "the extent of the allegations and Akbar's own aggressive reaction made the party high command believe this was getting untenable". But "lots of women have worse stories about this predator - maybe they'll share".

Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party initially stood behind party officials accused of sexual misconduct, as it did with Akbar. "The BJP government has been talking of girl child education and women's safety-Akbar's continuation in office had become hard", said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a Delhi-based political analyst associated with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies.

Other women in media have alleged that Akbar interviewed job candidates in hotel rooms at night; groped, massaged and forcibly kissed young interns and employees; and offered young women choice out-of-town postings so that he could go visit them there. Lawyers and women's groups said that could act as a deterrent to more victims coming forward. There was also growing discomfiture within the BJP that the allegations against Mr Akbar and his continuation as a minister could have an adverse electoral fallout, especially in urban areas. In his petition, Akbar said she "willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously" defamed him.

"As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation".

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