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#MeToo allegations fabricated: M.J. Akbar

Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar arrives at the IGI Airport, in New Delhi on October 14, 2018.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar on Sunday threatened to take legal action against several women journalists who have accused him of sexual harassment at two newspapers where he had been editor. His statement seemed to suggest that calls for his resignation were not going to be entertained, at least in the immediate future, by the Union government.

In a detailed statement, Mr. Akbar, who returned this morning from Africa where he had been leading an Indian delegation on various events, said that “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.”

 

Mr. Akbar attributed the allegations to motives other than the #Metoo movement’s aims of outing sexual predators. “Why has this storm risen a few months before the 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.

“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. Referring to journalist Priya Ramani, who had first spoken about Mr. Akbar’s alleged behaviour with female colleagues, he said, “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 is 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,” he added.

On Ms. Wahab, too, his response was in a similar vein, adding the events related by her referred to incidents from 16 years ago before he “entered public life” and are “utterly bizarre” and “nonsense”. He also said women who levelled allegations continued to work with him.

Yet another complaint

Meanwhile, another woman journalist has made allegations against Mr. Akbar. London-based senior journalist Ruth David has shared her experience as an intern with the Asian Age in 1999 in post on social media.

In a long piece detailing her experience, Ms. David said Mr. Akbar would call her into his office on the pretext of proof reading a book he was writing. He would stand close to her chair and offer massages, she writes. “And when I refused, he would try and kiss me as I squirmed away.” He then offered to transfer her to bureau in another city where Mr. Akbar allegedly proposed to set up an apartment for Ms. David. “The conditions for my promised new job had been made very clear,” she adds.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 1:30:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/metoo-mj-akbar-threatens-to-take-legal-action-against-women-journalists/article25220032.ece

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