#MeToo: Despite Multiple Allegations, MJ Akbar Refuses to Resign
File photo of MJ Akbar speaking in the Rajya Sabha.
File photo of MJ Akbar speaking in the Rajya Sabha. (Photo: Altered by The Quint)

#MeToo: Despite Multiple Allegations, MJ Akbar Refuses to Resign

More than half a dozen women journalists have accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour at various stages of his journalistic career, during which he launched and edited several newspapers.

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  • Amit Shah had earlier said the multiple accusations of sexual assault against MJ Akbar needed to be “looked into”
  • Union Minister Smriti Irani had said that justice should be done for the women who have spoken up
  • Congress party has demanded Akbar’s resignation over the sexual harassment allegations
  • MJ Akbar has been the editor of leading newspapers like ‘The Telegraph’, ‘Asian Age’ and ‘The Sunday Guardian’
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KEY EVENT

The Allegations Surfaced in 2017

A journalist who wrote a piece titled “To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world” in October 2017, has alleged that “Akbar is an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer.”

“You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault. Speaking up against you still carries a heavy price that many young women cannot afford to pay,” the article reads.

The article at the time of publishing did not mention the name of the harasser in question, but the author named MJ Akbar in a tweet recently.

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More Women Speak Up Against Akbar

A woman journalist said that she was called to Akbar's hotel room for an interview for Asian Age, in Kolkata's Taj Bengal in 1995.

She clarifies that he didn't actually "do" anything, but that "the whole experience of an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink that evening was rattling and deeply uncomfortable".

Another journalist took to Twitter to name Akbar.

Sushma Swaraj Dodges Question on MJ Akbar

When The Quint approached the Ministry of External Affairs, they refused to comment on this issue. Some other sources in the Ministry said that “no action has been initiated in the matter as of now.”

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj too dodged questions on Akbar when journalists asked her about the allegations leveled against him.

Another Female Journalist Calls Out Akbar

Another journalist called out MJ Akbar and said that he would call women to his hotel rooms for interviews.

Cong Demands Probe into Allegations Against Akbar

The Congress, on Tuesday demanded a probe into allegations of sexual harassment against Union minister MJ Akbar even as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj evaded questions whether the government will take any action against him.

Akbar Plucked My Bra Strap: Suparna Sharma

Currently the Resident Editor of The Asian Age, Suparna Sharma has also accused Akbar of harassing her, reported The Indian Express.

Speaking to the daily, Sharma said that she became a part of the team from 1993 to 1996 where she was reporting to Akbar. She said that she was working on the first page of the newspaper and Akbar was standing behind her.

“He plucked my bra strap and said something which I don’t remember now. I screamed at him,” Sharma told the daily.

In another incident, Sharma said that she once went to Akbar’s cabin at work and he kept staring at her breast and said something that she ignored.

Sharma says that these incidents were routine and there were “no committees one could go to”.

Journalist Kanika Gahlaut Says 'Akbar Did This to Everyone'

Speaking to The Indian Express, freelance Journalist Kanika Gahlaut said that she worked with Akbar from 1995 to 1997 and Akbar’s behaviour was the same with everyone.

Describing an incident, Gahlaut told the daily that she was invited to a hotel room once by Akbar to which she agreed but never showed up. She also said that she gave an excuse to him and he never bothered her and she continued to work.

Gahlaut also added that Akbar “wouldn’t push” once he was told no and that she was “always given her due” and that she “learnt a lot from him”.

There Should be a Probe: Union Minister Maneka Gandhi

When an India Today reporter asked Maneka Gandhi if an investigation should be carried out against a “certain politician” who has been named for sexually harassing female colleagues, Gandhi said that an “investigation should be conducted against all men in power”.

Gandhi didn’t specifically refer to anyone but said, “We should take all the allegations very seriously because women are scared to come out and talk and now when they are talking, we should take action against each and everyone.”

Journalist Saba Naqvi Pens Her Tale of Harassment

In an article on DailyO, senior journalist Saba Naqvi has written about the harassement she faced at her workplace by a certain editor who shares his name with a “Grand Mughal Emperor”.

Though Naqvi doesn’t name anyone, she goes on to narrate a few incidents that she faced in office with this person who she describes as a predator who went on to become a senior politician.

Naqvi clarifies that the man never laid a hand on her, but what he did was nothing short of harassment.

KEY EVENT

Congress Demands MJ Akbar's Resignation

Speaking to the media, Congress leader Jaipal Reddy said, “Union Minister MJ Akbar should either give a satisfactory answer to the allegations or he should resign. We demand an inquiry into the matter.”

MJ Akbar Has Been a Sexual Predator Since the 1980s: Priya Ramani

Priya Ramani, the journalist who had named MJ Akbar amid the ongoing #metoo movement took to Twitter on Tuesday to name him again and said that he has been at this behaviour since the 1980s.

KEY EVENT

He Ran His Hands From My Breasts to Hips: Ghazala Wahab

Another journalist Ghazala Wahab wrote her account on the news portal The Wire.

Recalling her early days as a journalist, Wahab said that she joined The Asian Age in 1994, as an intern, where Akbar was an editor. It was in 1997, her third year at work, when the “office culture hit her.”

Wahab said Akbar would send her lewd messages on The Asian Age intranet and would often call her to his cabin, where she was repeatedly harassed.

Ghazala's Account Confirmation of Rumours: Seema Mustafa

Seema Mustafa, a senior journalist working with Ghazala Wahab at the time of the alleged harassment mentioned by Wahab, said she had heard such rumours around the newsroom.

“But now I read the story of Ghazala Wahab, a case of total harassment and nastiness by MJ Akbar. Out of the MeToo movement, but a strong indictment of the editor and his behaviour. A confirmation of what we thought he did, and had little by way of evidence. She says she spoke to me, and I am sure she is right. If she spoke to me she did not share the details as she has written them now,” said Mustafa, while writing for The Citizen.

She also said while Wahab must have mentioned to her about the incident back then, she does not remember her mentioning such details.

“She says she spoke to me, and I am sure she is right. If she spoke to me she did not share the details as she has written them now,” she said in the aforementioned article.

Govt's Silence on MJ Akbar Unacceptable: AIDWA

The government's silence on allegations of sexual harassment against Union minister MJ Akbar is "unacceptable", the All India Democratic Women's Association said on Wednesday.

"Such indifference to the plight of women who are subjected to sexual harassment is a telling indictment of the Modi government, and its attitude to women's rights.

"The BJP government has maintained an unacceptable silence on the issue of allegations of sexual harassment made against many leading personalities, including its own minister, M J Akbar," said AIDWA in a statement.

KEY EVENT

I May Not Be the Right Person to Comment on This: Nirmala Sitharaman on MJ Akbar

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in an interview to CNN-News18 said that she is not the correct person to comment on the allegations against MJ Akbar.

“I don't know the position (of the government) because this is not something I have discussed with somebody in the government to say what call we have taken so I can't speak out. But I do support the courage with which many of these women are speaking out,” said Sitharaman.

“I may not be the right person to even comment on it. Being a part of the government, I agree... But I may not be the right person to comment,” she said.

Owaisi Demands MJ Akbar's Resignation

President of All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen Party (AIMIM) and Member of Parliament Lok Sabha, Asaduddin Owaisi too demanded MJ Akbar’s resignation.

Kadambari M Wade, Too, Names MJ Akbar

Another former journalist at Asian Age has named MJ Akbar.

Kadambari M Wade took to Twitter to say, back in 1998, when she was working as a sports reporter, Akbar made her feel ‘awkward’.

Narrating one such incident she said that Akbar would always look at her ‘chest’ while talking to her, so one day she confronted him about it and after that – as Wade recalls – Akbar and she never spoke.

Two more journalists quote tweeted Priya Ramani’s account and called out MJ Akbar.

Former Journalist Harinder Baweja aid, “Many of us have an MJ Kabr story.”

While another female scribe Anju Bharti said her Akbar story was during a party thrown by India Today at which Akbar got drunk and took female journalists in the pool with him.

Investigation Should be Done: BJP Minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi

Speaking to the media, BJP minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi said, “The question is not about resignation. Question is when I accuse someone, it should be proved. Every woman has a right to accuse and investigation should also be done. Women have presented their versions, men also have right to present their version.”

CPI(M) Demands Resignation of MJ Akbar

The CPI(M) on Thursday, 11 October demanded the resignation of Union Minister MJ Akbar after some women journalists accused him of sexually harassment.

The party in a statement said seven women journalists spoke up on being sexually harassed by Akbar when he was an editor.

Akbar's Trip Won't be Cut; His Version of Events Will be Heard: Sources

NDTV reported that top government sources have denied reports that Akbar has been asked to cut short his trip and resign.

They said that his version will be heard once he is back.

"There is no FIR or formal complaint. These are moral issues and he should take a call," NDTV quoted the sources as saying.

Important Time in Our Society, Concerned Person Answerable: Smriti Irani

Textiles Minister Smriti Irani, on Thursday spoke about the ongoing #MeToo campaign. When asked about the accusations on MJ Akbar, a minister in her cabinet, Irani said that it is for the person concerned to issue a statement on the same.

“I will only say this that women don’t go to work to be harassed, they go to live their dreams and earn a respectable living. So I will say today that it must be very difficult for them to come out and tell whatever happened in their professional life.”
Smriti Irani, Union Textiles Minister

“It is an extremely important time in our society that more and more women are getting support to speak out and I feel that our legislation and judiciary is equipped enough to deliver justice. I hope all these women get the due justice they deserve,” she said.

She also said that the women who are coming out should in no way be mocked, shamed or victimised.

For the Govt to Decide: BJP Leader on Demand for MJ Akbar's Resignation

BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvergiya Thursday declined to make any direct comment on the demand for Union Minister MJ Akbar's resignation over charges of sexual harassment but said it is for the government to decide.

The BJP leader said that he (Akbar) is part of the government and it is for the government to decide if Akbar should resign.

Vijayvargiya was in the city for BJP's office bearers' meeting here.

Various Opposition parties including the Congress has demanded the resignation of Akbar after some women journalists accused him of sexually harassing them when he was an editor.

As the #MeToo campaign gathered momentum in India, some women journalists have come out and accused Akbar, a former editor and now the Minister of State for External affairs, of sexually harassing them during his stint as a journalist.

MJ Akbar Goes to Equatorial Guinea, Extends Trip by 2 Days

According to a recent report by CNN-News18, the accused MJ Akbar has extended his trip by two days. According to the report. He will now be travelling to Malabo and Equatorial Guinea from Nigeria, and will be back on 14 October.

We Need to Hear His Statement Too: Union Minister Ramdas Athwale on MJ Akbar

Union Minister Ramdas Athwale, when asked about his stand on MJ Akbar, said that we need to hear his statement too. He is out of India. There should be an investigation, if he is found to be guilty then he should resign.

BJP to Wait for Akbar's Explanation: Sources

The BJP expects its leader and Union minister MJ Akbar to offer an explanation to the party's top brass on the allegations of sexual harassment against him before it takes a call on his future, sources told PTI.

A party leader said the allegations levelled against the Union minister of state for external affairs were serious but added that there were several aspects to it, including that there was no legal case against him.

Several opposition parties have demanded Akbar's resignation. The Congress has said he should either issue a satisfactory explanation or resign.

KEY EVENT

MJ Akbar in Equatorial Guinea

Sources with the MEA have confirmed to The Quint that MJ Akbar is currently in Equatorial Guinea and he is expected to come back on Sunday.

Don't Think Anyone Can 'Misuse' Women Journalists: BJP Leader

Speaking to ANI, Chief of Madhya Pradesh BJP women’s wing, Lata Kelkar said, “I welcome the MeToo campaign but I don't consider women journalists to be so innocent that anyone can misuse them.”

MJ Akbar Sexually Harassed an 18-Year-Old Intern

Fresh allegations surfaced on 12 October, Friday, against MJ Akbar where he “pulled in an 18-year-old intern, kissed her and forced his tongue into her mouth,” reported HuffPost.

Majlie de Puy Kamp was an intern at the The Asian Age newspaper in 2007, when was reporting to the editor MJ Akbar. Kamp was responsible for showing options for the lead photograph for the morning front page.

He got up and walked around his desk to where I was sitting, so I also got up and I extended my hand. He grabbed me right under my shoulders, on my arms, and pulled me in and kissed me on my mouth and forced his tongue into my mouth, and I just stood there.
Majlie de Puy Kamp to HuffPost

Akbar was 55 years old at the time; de Puy Kamp was 18, reported HuffPost.

Government Cannot Say Anything on MJ Akbar: Uma Bharti

Refusing to acknowledge the sexual harassment complaints against cabinet minister MJ Akbar, Union Minister Uma Bharti said, “The matter is of the times when he was not a part of the Central Government.”

“So, it is a matter between MJ Akbar and the women. Government can say nothing on this,” Bharti said.

DCW Chief Writes to PM, Seeks Removal of MJ Akbar From Cabinet

Delhi Commission for Women chief Swati Maliwal said she has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday, 12 October, urging him to remove Union Minister and former journalist M J Akbar from his post in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment against him.

“This is the right time to please come out, please report so, all these sexual predators that are existing in our society, they need to be taken to task and they need to be put behind bars,” she said.

“I've also appealed to the Prime Minister through a letter today. Sir, please first of all remove Mr MJ Akbar from the post of minister in your central government. I think he does not deserves to be a minister anymore,” she said.

PM Should Speak on the Allegations Against Akbar, Says Swamy

Questioning Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on the firestorm of allegations against cabinet minister MJ Akbar, Senior Bharatiya Janta Party leader Subramanian Swamy said that women are not wrong in coming out on the harassment.

"Allegations have been levelled against him,not by one but multiple women. I've already said that I support #MeToo movement. I don't think it's wrong if they're coming out after a long time. PM should speak on this," Swamy told ANI.

KEY EVENT

Sexual Assault Allegations Against MJ Akbar Needed to be "Looked Into": Amit Shah

Bharatiya Janata Party President, Amit Shah, on Friday, 12 October, had said that the multiple sexual assault allegations against junior external affairs minister, MJ Akbar, needed to be “looked into”.

It’s difficult to comment on something that comes on a website. One can put anything on a website. So, this needs to be checked. If that is true or false, whether such an incident happened or not.
Amit Shah said in an interview to ETV 

"It will have to be seen if it is the same person who is levelling allegations or someone else has put it up (on social media). All these things will have to be seen. And once we do it, we will certainly think over it (the action against Akbar)," he added.

MJ Akbar Returns to India, Says Will Give Statement Later

Union Minister MJ Akbar returned to India on Sunday, 14 October, amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment against him. Responding to these allegations, he said he would be giving a statement "later on", ANI reported.

Another Allegation Against Akbar Surfaces Online

Working as a trainee journalist at The Asian Age in 1999, Ruth recalled sexual harassment faced by her through MJ Akbar.

Sharing her account on Medium, she said Akbar not only made her uncomfortable with the way he looked at her, but tried every possible excuse to call her into his office and offer ‘massages’ while standing too close.

"He stood close behind and offered massages ostensibly because I looked stressed. And when I refused, he would try and kiss me as I squirmed away," she wrote.

He also offered her a ‘better career’ if she allowed him to visit her place for ‘dinner’ and after she refused, she was told how big a mistake she was making.

MJ Akbar Reportedly Tenders Resignation via Email Amid Multiple Sexual Charges

Union Minister MJ Akbar has reportedly resigned via email amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment, News18 reported.

MJ Akbar to Take Legal Action, Calls Allegations Baseless

MJ Akbar says the allegations against him are baseless and his lawyers are deciding on the legal course of action.

“Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action,” said Akbar.

“Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy. This is deeply distressing. I will be taking appropriate legal action,” he added.

He also said that these allegations are being levelled only due to upcoming assembly elections.

“Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill,” he said.

Ghazala Wahab Refuses to Comment

Ghazala Wahab, one of the journlaists who accused MJ Akbar, refused to comment on his statement, when The Quint reached out her.

Shocked & Dismayed, Says Shutapa Paul

Former India Today employee Shutapa Paul, who accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment said that she was “shocked and dismayed”of the minister’s “brazen shaming.”

“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

Disappointed, But Not Surprised: Suparna Sharma

Currently the Resident Editor of The Asian Age, Suparna Sharma has also accused Akbar of harassing her. Responding to his statement, Sharma said:

“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. BMost of us are ready for it now and let’s see what happenes next.”
Suparna Sharma

She also asserted that she stood by her account.

“The allegations started coming on the 8 and he has put out the statement today. He has had 6 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 defence and offence is going to be the truth.”
Suparna Sharma

MJ Akbar Returns to Work

A day after rubbishing the allegations levelled against him, MJ Akbar returned to work on Monday to attend a meeting chaired by Sushma Swaraj along with other senior officials.

MJ Akbar returned from Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.

MJ Akbar arrives at the Ministry of External Affairs in South Block.
MJ Akbar arrives at the Ministry of External Affairs in South Block.
(Photo: ANI)

Members of Youth Congress Detained for Staging Protest Outside Akbar's Residence

Police on Monday detained members of Youth Congress who were protesting outside the residence of MJ Akbar, demanding his resignation.

Akbar Files Defamation Case Against Priya Ramani in Delhi's Patiala House Court

Union Minister MJ Akbar on Monday filed a criminal defamation case in Delhi's Patiala House Court against journalist Priya Ramani.

Journalists Organisations Issue Joint Statement Against Akbar

Multiple journalist organisations issued a joint statement against MJ Akbar’s comments on sexual harassment allegations and filing of a case against the accusers.

“We the undersigned journalist organisations have been deeply concerned over the overwhelming complaints of sexual harassment in the media. We recognize that sexual harassment at the workplace is a worrisome reality and that media organisations and managements have been unable to put the systems in place which would have ordinarily addressed complaints of sexual harassment,” the statement read

“We are also deeply disappointed at the statement issued by Mr M J Akbar, Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs. wherein he has threatened legal action against all those who have alleged they were harassed by him. Mr. Akbar is a senior functionary of the government and his response should reflect the responsibility that is thus bestowed on him,” it added.

Anti-Women Face of BJP Exposed: BSP

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) said that by not asking MJ AKbar to resign, the BJP has exposed its anti-women face.

“In this whole MJ Akbar episode the anti-women face of the BJP Government has been exposed. By not asking the minister to resign, BJP is being arrogant and insensitive,” the BSP said, as quoted by ANI.

MJ Akbar Wants to Silence Victims With Intimidation: Priya Ramani

Priya Ramani issued a statement against the defamation case filed by MJ Akbar against her, saying, that he has made his stand clear with it. She also said that Akbar intends to silence the victims with intimidation and harassment.

MJ Akbar Has Given His Stand: JP Nadda

Union Minister MJ Akbar has "given his stand" on the sexual harassment allegations against him, Union Health Minister JP Nadda said Monday.

"MJ Akbar has spoken yesterday itself. He has given his stand and he is going for a legal course of action", he said responding to questions on the issue at a press conference.

Criminal Defamation Case Against Priya Ramani to be Heard on 18 Oct

Delhi's Patiala House court has listed the matter of the defamation case filed by MJ Akbar against Priya Ramani for 18 October.

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