Anxious about ‘untenable’ situation, BJP gets minister MJ Akbar to quit

Clay Curtis
October 18, 2018

According to the established procedure, the resignation will now be sent to the President.

Allegations of sexual harassment have ensnared the opposition party as well.

Responding to the allegations after returning to India from an official visit overseas, Akbar called the allegations "false and fabricated" and questioned their timing, hinting at a political campaign against him. Also, if a sitting Union minister appeared in court to fend off allegations of sexual harassment, it could have proved even more embarrassing for the government and the BJP.

On Monday, he filed the case against Priya Ramani - the first female journalist to name him - under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code, which relate to criminal defamation.

"Since I have chose to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations against me", Akbar said in a Wednesday statement.

Many journalists from multiple media platforms have come forward with their stories of harassment against the Minister of State for External Affairs under the social media campaign '#Metoo' against sexual misconduct.

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He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity to serve the country. He had initially refused to quit on Sunday.

Akbar had filed criminal defamation proceedings against Ramani for alleging he sexually harassed employees, a claim that was then backed up by more than 20 other former employees of the newspaper editor-turned-politician.

He is one of the most prominent among many men accused in recent weeks of sexual harassment or abuse, including bestselling authors, senior journalists, comedians and actors.

"As women, we feel vindicated by M.J.Akbar's resignation", Ramani said in a tweet. Meanwhile, Ramani asserted that she is looking forward to the day when she will get justice in the court too.

When his party swept national elections in 2014, he promised economic growth and social progression for all and more women-centric welfare programs. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party government in 2016.

The question now is whether the current #MeToo movement can improve the lot of women across India and make workplaces safer, or whether the efforts will peter out as attention fades and the inevitable backlash from India's patriarchal culture sets in. "We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider the testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment", the journalists said in the joint statement undersigned by them. He termed these as "viral fever", saying these were "false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice", and added he would be "taking appropriate legal action".

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