Akbar’s Day of Reckoning: Accusers Set Sights On Justice in Court

MJ Akbar quit on 17 October, weeks after accusations against him came up. Here’s what his accusers have to say.

4 min read
Akbar’s Day of Reckoning: Accusers Set Sights On Justice in Court

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In a resounding victory for the nearly two dozen female journalists and women who spoke up accusing Minister of State External Affairs MJ Akbar of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct, the minster resigned from his post on Wednesday afternoon, 17 October.

“Since I have decided 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 levied against me, also in a personal capacity. I have, therefore, tendered my resignation from the office of Minister of State for External Affairs. I am deeply grateful to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the External Affairs Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country.”
MJ Akbar

The allegations against Akbar came in thick and fast after the first accusation by journalist Priya Ramani, which broke the dam. Ramani spoke out against Akbar during her time at Asian Age, where he worked as the editor.

Over a dozen former and present female employees of Asian Age also spoke up after her statement, lending support and corroborating her testimony.

Akbar has since filed a defamation suit against the journalist on 15 October, a move that drew widespread criticism in the wake of his refusal to quit, despite the numerous allegations.

Here are the reactions of some of his many accusers from minutes after the news broke:

“As Women, We Feel Vindicated”

Priya Ramani is a senior journalist who worked alongside Akbar during her stint at the Asian Age. Ramani, who was formerly associated with India Today, The Indian Express and Mint, was the first to level allegations against MJ Akbar.

She is the sole accused in his defamation lawsuit and has been accused of "intentionally putting forward fabricated allegations" to harm his reputation.


“Devi Durga Slays the Demon”

Saba Naqvi is a senior journalist and author. In her account of workplace harassment, she had spoken about the harassment she faced by a certain editor who shares his name with a “Grand Mughal Emperor”.

“Eventually, It’s the Truth That Prevails”

In a telephonic interview with News18, Ghazala Wahab said that she was ‘hugely relieved’ and called the resignation a ‘moment of truth’.

Wahab, who joined The Asian Age in 1994, as an intern, had earlier said that it was in 1997, her third year of work, when the “office culture hit her”.

“This should have happened 3 days back. So, I’m hugely relieved that this has happened now and I think, it’s just a moment of truth which has stared him in the face...everything worked, all the efforts of all the women who have braved this, braved embarrassment, braved all sorts of allegations online, everything put together has worked. You know, it doesn’t matter whose might is behind whom. Eventually, it’s the truth that prevails, which is why we’ve always believed that if the truth is on your side, if you’re steadfast, you’ll eventually see. You know, what has happened now.”
Ghazala Wahab

“He Just Had to Step Down”

Currently the Resident Editor of The Asian Age, Delhi, Suparna Sharma had also accused Akbar of harassing her. In another telephonic interview with News 18, she recounted, “He plucked my bra strap and said something which I don’t remember now. I screamed at him,” she said.

“The statement came late, but I’m glad that this came, I’m happy that the government has taken a stand or he’s taken this decision on his own. I’m happy that he has stepped down. The same accusations were there when landed back in India after his 6-day trip. Since this #metoo movement and these allegations began, he chose not to but the fact is that his decision to go on, stay in his position, yet file this case, more and more women are coming out and the pressure was building. Not just from journalists who were accusing him but now male journalists have come forward, there was a public perception building. So I think, he just had to step down.”
Suparna Sharma

“I Stand By My Story and Those Who Spoke Up”

Ruth David, a correspondent at Bloomberg London who had accused Akbar in a first-person account on Medium, said the following on Twitter.

“Staying On Reeked of a Sense of Entitlement”

Harinder Baweja, a senior journalist with The Hindustan Times, had also spoken after several fellow journalists came forward with their accusations. She said

In a series of tweets on 17 October, soon after the news broke, she responded to the news of him quitting with "good riddance”. She also said that his decision to stay on despite the allegations reeked of “a sense of entitlement”.

She tweeted that the next step for him would be to withdraw the defamation suit unless “ MJ Akbar wants to continue defaming himself.... ”.

Calling “truth” and “courage” powerful weapons, she castigated a news channel for attempting to take credit away from the courageous women who spoke out against the minister, putting their careers and reputations on the line. She tweeted:

She also challenged PM Modi and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to break their silence, after his resignation.

“Better Late Than Never”

Shuma Raha, journalist and author and one of the women who tweeted that Akbar had behaved inappropriately with her, said this to The Quint.

“Mr Akbar’s resignation was overdue. After more than 20 women came forward with charges of sexual misconduct against him, his continuing as a union minister was untenable. So, yes, better late than never.”
Shuma Raha

“Credit to Role Played by Media, Journalistic Fraternity, and Civil Society”

Shutapa Paul, who detailed her traumatic experience with MJ Akbar in a series of 33 tweets, responded to his resignation with the following message on Twitter.

“This was long overdue and it was important that Mr Akbar took moral responsibility for his actions and stepped down from his post. Credit must go to the role played by the media, journalistic fraternity and civil society.”
Shutapa Paul, Founder-Editor, NewCrop

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Topics:  Sexual Harassment   MJ Akbar   Defamation 

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