India's #MeToo moment

Untenable: on M.J. Akbar

more-in

M.J. Akbar should have resigned. Or else, asked to go

The Minister of State for External Affairs, M.J. Akbar, should have done the only right thing in the circumstances — resign. This was the only course to limit the already significant damage to the high office he holds. His legacy in Indian journalism would also have been better served had he quit first and attempted to defend himself legally or otherwise later. Unfortunately, he chose not to. Upon his return to Delhi from an overseas official trip on Sunday, he went on the offensive by dismissing the long string of charges of sexual harassment made against him by former women colleagues as a tissue of lies. He chose to spin an unconvincing web of conspiracy around the sudden spate of the #MeToo disclosures over the last week. Mr. Akbar’s basic theme: with elections round the corner, these charges are motivated. There is a second, more specific line in his attempted defence — one that suggests that the gravamen of the charges is vague and unsubstantiated. While it is true that not every one of the dozen or so women have claimed they were physically assaulted, the overall picture they have painted is that of a systematic pattern of sexual harassment. Their stories range from suggestiveness and innuendo to outright molestation. Together they make for sad and worrying reading, but at least a couple highlight how far he seemed willing to go. Ghazala Wahab, now executive editor at FORCE magazine, has written of repeated molestation at his hands in the mid-1990s when he was her editor at Asian Age. Majlie de Puy Kamp, now a New York-based reporter, has spoken of how a decade later he forcibly kissed her, when she was 18 and interning with him.

Mr. Akbar’s conspiracy theory that the #MeToo charges have settled upon him because elections are now looming is weak and totally unconvincing. He has no political heft and a conspiracy to tarnish him and secure his speedy exit from the Narendra Modi government would have left it none the weaker. Now that he has decided to dig his heels in, the focus cannot but shift to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Why wasn’t his resignation demanded and secured on his return to the Capital? Surely, the Prime Minister had more than enough time to sift through the charges, take stock of Mr. Akbar’s alleged misdemeanours and conclude whether he should continue in the Cabinet. By failing to immediately force him to step down, Mr. Modi has sent an unfortunate message about his government’s attitude to harassment and the protection of women in workspaces. He has appeared as if he is standing behind Mr. Akbar and will be perceived by many as having failed India’s women.

Why you should pay for quality journalism - Click to know more

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Dec 14, 2019 10:19:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/untenable/article25221691.ece

In This Package
Journalism after #MeToo
You are reading Untenable: on M.J. Akbar
Rahul Johri.
#MeToo: CoA seeks explanation from BCCI chief executive Rahul Johri over sexual harassment charges
Journalists gather in solidarity with #MeToo
Maneka Gandhi proposes committee of legal experts to look into #MeToo cases
Screen Writers Association in solidarity with Vinta Nanda
#MeToo: After Akshay’s tweet, Sajid Khan quits as director of Housefull 4
#UsToo — on India's #MeToo moment
#MeToo: Not without her consent
Chinmayi accuses Vairamuthu of sexual misconduct
Alok Nath accused of rape
#MeToo in Bollywood: Aamir Khan exits Subhash Kapoor’s film as producer
Two actors speak up against Alok Nath
Now, Sandhya Mridul calls out Alok Nath
Cartoonscape — October 12, 2018
Singer Chinmayi accuses lyricist Vairamuthu of sexual misconduct; he denies allegations
CINTAA supports Vinta Nanda on Alok Nath allegation, still deliberating course of action
Alok Nath
CINTAA to send show-cause notice to actor Alok Nath after allegations of rape by writer Vinta Nanda
#MeToo: Tanmay Bhat ‘steps away’ from AIB, Gursimran Khamba sent on leave
Allegations emerge against Suhel Seth, Aditi Mittal, Raghu Dixit
Utsav Chakraborty episode: Mumbai Police reach out to harassment victim
#MeToo: truth needs to be told loud and clear in order to bring about change, says Rahul Gandhi
Tanushree Dutta records statement with Oshiwara police
FIR filed against Nana Patekar
#MeToo effect: Maharashtra women’s panel sends notice to Nana Patekar
Two legal notices slapped on actor Tanushree Dutta
Tanushree Dutta accuses Nana Patekar of sexual harassment
Tanushree Dutta’s sexual harassment allegation is a lie, says Nana Patekar
Tanushree Dutta sexual assault claims: Farhan Akhtar, Priyanka Chopra, Twinkle Khanna lend support
#MeToo: I quit the industry and it took me 10 years to heal, says Tanushree Dutta
Nana Patekar cancels press meet on Tanushree Dutta’s sexual harassment allegation
Nana Patekar responds to charges with legal notice
Tanushree Dutta responds to CINTAA’s official statement
Tanushree Dutta says she has received legal notices from Nana Patekar, Vivek Agnihotri
Tanushree Dutta submits complaint against Nana Patekar
Next Story