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Shocked & Dismayed: Survivors React to MJ Akbar’s Rebuttal

MJ Akbar has claimed that the allegations against him were “baseless”, and that he would take the legal action.

Updated
India
4 min read
MJ Akbar has claimed that the allegations against him were “baseless”, and that he would take the legal course of action.
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After MoS External Affairs MJ Akbar, accused of sexual harassment by several women, claimed that the allegations made against him are baseless and that he would take the legal course of action, many of the survivors have expressed dismay and disappointment at Akbar’s statement.

Speaking to The Quint, Shutapa Paul, a former India Today employee who accused Akbar, said she was “shocked and dismayed” at the minister’s “brazen shaming” of the survivors.

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“I am shocked and dismayed. MJ Akbar’s brazen shaming of all of us is evidence of his sense of entitlement and power. I feel let down by the powers that be. Our fight is the fight for every woman; a fight for justice, a fight against feeling violated in the work place and in daily life. I will not be intimidated by my tormentor and cower down. Truth and justice will prevail. Our right to live and work as independent, equal citizens of India must be.”
Shutapa Paul to The Quint

Meanwhile, Suparna Sharma, currently the Resident Editor of The Asian Age, told Mirror Now that Akbar’s statement indicated that the #MeToo movement was likely to be a long-drawn battle.

“I’m disappointed but I’m not very surprised. The #MeToo movement is a challenge to the men who did what they wanted with the women who worked for them. This is going to be a long-drawn battle. Most of us are ready for it now, and let’s see what happens next.”
Suparna Sharma to Mirror Now

Sharma also asserted that she stood by her account.

“The allegations started coming on the 8th and he has put out the statement today. He has had six days to sit with his lawyers and put out a statement. Even in his statement, he has picked select cases and certain cases he has conveniently left out. I stand by what I said. I stand by what he did to me. My defense and offense is going to be the truth.”
Suparna Sharma

Kanika Gahlaut, another former employee of Akbar’s from The Asian Age, said sexual harassment is beyond “doing something” – it also includes verbal, non-verbal and physical harassment.

Speaking to Mirror Now, she said:

“I am one of those people who said, “he didn’t actually do anything”, but I also stand by my allegations. Because you don’t have to “ do anything” for it to qualify as sexual harassment. So when he tries to dismiss it on this yardstick, he is wrong.”

Then, addressing Akbar’s concerns on the #MeToo movement “happening only now”, Gahlaut said:

“If he is calling #MeToo a conspiracy against him, at the most it is a conspiracy against mankind.”

In an article in The Wire, Ghazala Wahad responded to the minister’s statement saying, “lies do not have legs, which is why they cannot go far”. Commenting on Akbar’s attempt to refute her story, she said he was either “lying or age has caught up with him.”

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Speaking to The Telegraph, Priya Ramani, the first woman to level allegations against Akbar, said she wasn’t worried about the possibility of a defamation case, and that the truth was the best defence.

“The truth is the best defence in any defamation case. I’m not worried... He has decided to brazen it out. He’s clearly being supported by a political establishment whose Beti Bachao slogan rings more hollow every day. There is no conspiracy against Akbar. None of us — unlike him — has any political ambitions. We are speaking up at great cost to our personal and professional lives.”
Priya Ramani, as quoted by The Telegraph

She added that MJ Akbar’s name has been called out for his actions because women were speaking out strongly against the ‘culture of impunity’.

“Women are speaking out in an incredible, historic challenge to a culture of impunity. Akbar’s actions have finally caught up with him because of the #MeToo movement.”  
Priya Ramani, as quoted by The Telegraph

Kadambari M Wade, another former journalist at The Asian Age, posted responses from her former editor in light of Akbar’s statement. The editor had, at the time of the incident, asked Wade to be ‘safe from Akbar’.

Wade tweeted that no girl should have needed a lecture of that kind, and that the work space should be a place where one feels safe.

New York-based journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp, who has accused Akbar of forcibly kissing her during her internship with The Asian Age in 2007, said she was disappointed by not surprised by his statement.

While responding to Akbar’s statement, which states the allegations to be agenda-driven before the general elections, she told The Indian Express:

“I am not a citizen, I cannot vote. I do not have a political agenda. Plus, I have a paper trail. My father wrote an email to Akbar about the incident to which he responded. I have evidence. I am disappointed but not surprised by his statement. I am, however, very comfortable with my story.”
Majlie de Puy Kamp

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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