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MJ Akbar hints political vendetta: Charges false, will take action; why this storm before elections, asks Union minister

Denying all accusations against him as baseless, senior journalist-turned-minister MJ Akbar said he will take legal action.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: October 14, 2018 5:23:42 pm
mj akbar, metoo, metoo india, mj akbar sexual harassment, mj akbar resignation, mj akbar returns to india, metoo movement, sexual harassment, bjp Akbar, the Minister of State for External Affairs, was on an official trip to Nigeria when his name surfaced in the #MeToo campaign earlier last week. (Express)

Facing allegations of sexual harassment, Union Minister MJ Akbar on Sunday said that making accusations without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Denying all accusations against him as baseless, the senior journalist-turned-minister said he will take legal 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,” Akbar said in a statement.

Full text: MJ Akbar releases statement, calls #MeToo allegations ‘wild and baseless’

“The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice. I could not reply earlier as I was on an official tour abroad,” added Akbar.

Hinting that there is a political motive behind the allegations against him, Akbar said, “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.”

Read | PM Modi’s silence on charges against MJ Akbar unacceptable: Congress

“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,” the minister added.

In a lengthy statement, Akbar has responded specifically to allegations made by women journalists. “Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not, however, name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: “Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything.” If I didn’t do anything, where and what is the story? There’s no story. But a sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened. Some are total, unsubstantiated hearsay; others confirm, on the record, that I didn’t do anything,” said Akbar.

Express Editorial | Mr Akbar must go

Besides Ramani, other journalists who made accusations against Akbar were Prerna Singh Bindra, Ghazala Wahab, Shutapa Paul, Anju Bharti, Suparna Sharma, Shuma Raha, Malini Bhupta, Kanika Gahlout, Kadambari M Wade, Majlie de Puy Kamp and Ruth David.

Reacting to Wahab’s charges, Akbar said, “Another accusation was made repeatedly by Ms Ghazala Wahab, in an effort to damage my reputation. She claimed that she had been molested in office, 21 years ago. This is 16 years before I entered public life, and when I was in media.”

Read | Govt steps in, legal panel will look into issues arising from #MeToo

“The only office where I worked with Ghazala Wahab was that of The Asian Age. A part of the editorial team then worked out of a small hall. At the time concerned, I had a very tiny cubicle, patched together by plywood and glass. Others had tables and chairs two feet away. It is utterly bizarre to believe that anything could have happened in that tiny space, and, moreover, that no one else in the vicinity would come to know, in the midst of a working

Refuting harassment charges by both Ramani and Wahab, Akbar added, “Pertinent to remember Ms Ramani and Ms Wahab kept working with me even after these alleged incidents; clearly establishes they had no apprehension and discomfort. The reason why they remained silent for decades is very apparent, as Ms Ramani has herself stated, I never did anything.”

Akbar, the Minister of State for External Affairs, was on an official trip to Nigeria when his name surfaced in the #MeToo campaign earlier last week. Multiple women, mostly journalists, have claimed they were sexually harassed by Akbar during his stint as editor. Several Opposition parties, including the Congress, have called for Akbar’s resignation.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party has maintained a studied silence on the matter so far, many in the party believe that the charges against him are serious.

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