Union Minister M J Akbar resigns over #MeToo

Clay Curtis
October 18, 2018

India's delayed #MeToo allegations spilled out on social media after actress Tanushree Dutta revived a decade-old allegation against actor Nana Patekar in television interviews last month.

Akbar said he is stepping down as Minister of State for External Affairs and will challenge "false accusation" levelled against him in his personal capacity.

Mr Akbar had earlier filed a criminal defamation case against the female journalist who first named him.

Akbar has been a prominent figure in Indian public life for decades as a writer, the editor of national newspapers, a confidant of the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and as part of the prime minister Narendra Modi's government.

Ms Ramani did not name anyone in the original piece, but said in her tweet that the article had been about Mr Akbar. They could intimidate women still deciding on whether to publicly accuse men of misconduct, harassment or rape.

Wahab in her account also posted the screenshots of her conversations with ex-Asian Age colleague from the same period, who, according to her, were in the know of Akbar's reputation or at least what he did to her.

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Akbar on Monday had filed a private criminal defamation complaint against journalist Priya Ramani who recently levelled charges of sexual misconduct against him as the #MeToo campaign raged in India.

The women have accused M.J. Akbar, a junior foreign minister, of inappropriate behaviour before entering politics.

"Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy", M J Akbar had said, responding to allegations of sexual harassment. "We hope and wish that all the women fighting this tough battle would be heard and finally justice would be imparted", she said. On Tuesday, the news website Scroll published a new accusation of harassment from journalist Tushita Patel, who prefaced her allegations by saying that she felt compelled to speak out because of Akbar's brazen denial. She wrote that Akbar had found out her home phone number and would call her incessantly asking her to meet him. "These allegations are false, motivated and baseless", he said in his statement.

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.

"What Mr Akbar has demonstrated through his legal actions is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused vast pain and indeed harm to many, many women over the years", the 20 journalists willing to testify in court said in a statement. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party government in 2016.

"Sometimes, he would walk over to the door and put his hand over mine; sometimes he would rub his body against mine; sometimes he would push his tongue against my pursed lips; and every time I would push him away and escape from his room", she wrote.

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