New Delhi: Soon after Minister of State for External Affairs, MJ Akbar dismissed charges of sexual harassment, five of his former women colleagues who had accused him stated that they are firm on their statement. “It (Akbar’s reaction ) was disappointing but not surprising,” two of the accusers reportedly said. Also Read - ‘He Pulled Bra Strap, Slapped on Breast’: Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah’s Babita Aka Munmun Dutta's #MeToo Confession Goes Viral Again
“There is no conspiracy against Akbar, none of us — unlike him — have any political ambitions. We are speaking up at great cost to our personal and professional lives,” Priya Ramani, who had written an article an year ago and now accused Akbar following the #MeToo campaign, told The Indian Express. She added,”The truth is the best defence in any defamation case. I’m not worried.” Also Read - Indian Idol 12 Takes Anu Malik Back as Judge After #MeToo But It's Not What You Think!
Among others to accuse Akbar include Force magazine Executive Editor Ghazala Wahab, US-based journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp and UK-based journalist Ruth David. Also Read - Ali Zafar #MeToo Case: Meesha Shafi Can Face 3 Years of Imprisonment, Final Verdict on March 27
As the #MeToo movement gained momentum in the country, around a dozen women journalists accused Akbar of sexual harassment and molestation, leading to a growing chorus for his ouster as the Minister of State for External Affairs.
Earlier on Sunday, Akbar issued a detailed statement rubbishing the charges and wondered if there was an agenda behind the allegations as they came ahead of next year’s general elections.
“Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned (from abroad), my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action,” he said, on his arrival from an official trip in Nigeria.
Akbar gave no indication of his stepping down nor was there a word from the government or the ruling BJP as to whether he would continue in the government.
“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,” said the 67-year-old former Editor of Asian Age.
A founding editor of The Telegraph daily and Sunday magazine, Akbar joined politics in 1989 and became a Congress MP. He joined BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. A Rajya Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh, he was inducted into the Modi government in July 2016.