New Delhi: Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, who is facing sexual harassment allegations by several of his former women colleagues is expected to return to India on Sunday and clear the air over the charges levelled against him amid the raging #MeToo movement. Notably, Akbar who was on an official trip abroad has so far not responded to the charges. Also Read - Coronavirus in Himachal Pradesh: 2 Top BJP Leaders, Including ex-CM Dhumal, in Home Quarantine
The minister is returning after completing his visit to Equatorial Guinea. Akbar was in Nigeria when charges of sexual harassment was levelled against him. Earlier, it was reported that the authorities had asked him to cut short his overseas trip and return to India immediately. Also Read - Seasoned Politician With Clean Reputation: Meet Manoj Sinha, The New J&K Lieutenant Governor
The BJP is also likely to take a clear stand on the allegations of sexual harassment against him once he explains his position upon his scheduled return to the country. PTI sources have claimed that MJ Akbar’s position in the government is untenable and something big on him can be expected soon. “He can be asked to quit the ministry and work for the party, instead,” the news agency quoted sources further. Also Read - Delhi Sexual Assault Case: BJP Claims 'Lawlessness', Congress Waves Black Flags Outside AIIMS
Congress, DCW Demand Akbar’s Resignation
Meanwhile, the Congress party had demanded an inquiry into the allegations levelled and demanded his resignation. “MJ Akbar has his own stature as a journalist and now minister also. He must either give a satisfactory answer or he should resign. We demand an inquiry into the conduct of MJ Akbar,” said Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy.
DCW chief Swati Maliwal had also demanded Akbar’s resignation in view of allegations of sexual misconduct. “It is shameful that Akbar continues to be a Minister. Ten women have complained. Are all of them lying? The case should at least be investigated,” Maliwal had said.
“A movement like #MeToo won’t lose credibility any time in the future…At the same time, it is crucial for women to be true. I would really urge women to tell the truth and only the truth and speak out as much as they can. It is a responsibility on us,” She added.
How BJP Leaders Reacted?
On Saturday, while reacting to the allegations against Akbar, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah said that the charges against the minister would be examined. He also asserted that it is yet to be seen if the sexual harassment allegations against Akbar are true or false.
“Dekhna padega yeh sach hai ya galat (will see if this is true of false). We will have to verify whether these allegations are true or false. We have to check the veracity of the post and the person who posted it…Is baare me zaroor sochenge (we’ll definitely think about the issue),” Amit Shah was quoted as saying by Times of India.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had dodged the question on harassment allegations against MJ Akbar. However, Union Minister Smriti Irani while reacting on the accusations against Akbar, said that he himself would be in better position to speak on this issue.
On the other hand, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) firebrand leader Subramanian Swamy urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come out and speak on the issue. “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 had said.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Uma Bharti said that government has nothing to do with it as the matter is between between MJ Akbar and the women. “The matter is of the times when he was not a part of the Central Government. So, it is a matter between MJ Akbar & the women. Government can say nothing on this,” the Union Minister had said.
Minister for Women and Child Development, Maneka Gandhi without responding to the questions on Akbar said, “Men who are in positions of power often do this. And it applies to the media as well as to politics or senior personnel in companies.” However, she asserted that her ministry will soon propose a committee with senior judicial and legal persons as members to look into all issues emanating from the ongoing campaign.
“I believe in all of them. I believe in the pain and trauma behind every single complainant. I am proposing to set up a committee with senior judicial and legal persons as members to look into all issues emanating from the #MeToo campaign,” Gandhi had said in an interview.
Contrary to all, the chief of BJP’s women wing for Madhya Pradesh Lata Kelkar defended Akbar saying that the two journalists, who accused him of sexual misconduct, were at fault too. Kelkar further said that only now the women have understood that it was a sexual harassment and not at the time they were harassed.
What the women have alleged?
Akbar was a journalist, running a newspaper as its editor for years, before turning to politics. As many as six women journalists have called out Akbar, alleging sexual harassment at his hands. He was first called out by journalist Priya Ramani, who had last year written about his alleged inappropriate behaviour for a magazine without taking his name. She confirmed this week that the allegation was against Akbar. A day after, another of his former colleague Prerna Singh Bindra came up with charges of sexual harassment.
Who is MJ Akbar?
Akbar, a senior journalist, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of 2014 general elections and was elected to the Rajya Sabha a year later. He was made the Minister of State for External Affairs in 2016.
What is #MeToo movement?
The #MeToo movement began an year ago in Hollywood after The New York Times and The New Yorker published several stories about decades-long predation of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
However, it gained momentum in India after Bollywood actress Tanushree Dutta recently accused veteran actor Nana Patekar of sexual harassment. Following her revelation, accusations are being made against some powerful personalities in the media and the entertainment industry, including Sajid Khan, Alok Nath, Rajat Kapoor, Piyush Mishra, Vikas Bahl and many others.