It is almost a week since allegations of sexual harassment were first levelled against Union Minister of State MJ Akbar under the ongoing MeToo Movement in India. Nearly 10 women journalists have accused the former journalist of sexually harassing them when they were working under him.
The chorus for Akbar’s resignation has been increasing every day. On Sunday morning, he returned from an official visit to Africa but refused to speak much on the serious allegations levelled against him. When pressed on by the media to speak up, he gave a one-liner: “A statement will be issued later on”.
The Modi government is yet to issue a formal statement on the matter. However, sources in the government and the BJP had earlier told India Today TV that Akbar is likely to resign from his post.
As the Modi government finds itself embroiled in a raging controversy where a Union minister is accused of sexual harassment by around 10 women journalist, this is what our netas (politicians) have said so far on MJ Akbar:
Narendra Modi, prime minister:
Even days after the first sexual harassment allegation was levelled against his minister, PM Modi is yet to speak on the issue.
Amit Shah, BJP president:
During an interview to a local channel, Amit Shah said the party will have to verify the authenticity of the allegations against Akbar. “Dekhna padega ki yeh sach hai ya galat (We will have to see if the allegations are true or false),” Shah said.
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He said, “We have to check the veracity of the post and the person who posted it. You can also post something using my name. We will definitely look into the issue.”
Rahul Gandhi, Congress president:
Surprisingly, Rahul Gandhi, who has been upping the ante against the Modi government has not issued a direct statement on the sexual harassment allegations against MJ Akbar. Giving a general statement on the MeToo allegations, Rahul Gandhi in a tweet said: “It’s about time everyone learns to treat women with respect and dignity. I am glad the space for those who don’t, is closing. The truth needs to be told loud and clear in order to bring about change.”
However, the Congress in a press conference has demanded Akbar’s resignation. “Union Minister MJ Akbar should either give a satisfactory answer to the allegations or he should resign. We demand an inquiry into the matter,” its spokesperson said.
Sushma Swaraj, external affairs minister:
Swaraj, who is the immediate boss of MJ Akbar, has refrained to speaking about the allegations against him. On October 9, when journalists pointedly asked her about the case, she sidestepped questions. She is yet to speak anything on the case since then.
Maneka Gandhi, Women and Child Development Minister:
Maneka Gandhi was the first central minister to speak on the allegations against Akbar. When asked about the matter, she had called for an “investigation”. She has also announced that a four-member committee of retired Supreme Court judges will be set up to probe all MeToo allegations.
Smriti Irani, Union minister:
The Union textile minister said that women speaking out in the #MeToo movement shouldn’t be mocked or shamed. She said it is for MJ Akbar to issue a statement on the sexual harassment allegations against him.
“The gentleman concerned would be better positioned to speak on this issue,” Irani told reporters, without explicitly naming Akbar. “I appreciate that the media is accosting his [woman] colleagues.”
“But I think that it is for the gentleman concerned to issue a statement, not for me, because I was personally not present there.”
Subramanian Swamy, BJP Rajya Sabha MP
Swamy has demanded that an investigation into the allegations against Akbar. He said the accounts narrated by women journalist are prima facie evidence against Akbar.
“These accounts are prime facie evidence. FIRs are registered on such evidence. This is a case where so many women are saying something. I would not dismiss it. I would say it’s a prima facie case and let there be a full-fledged enquiry,” Swamy told India Today Television.
Sanjay Raut, Shiv Sena MP
Speaking to reporters, Raut said it is up to the government to decide on the fate of MJ Akbar. “If someone levels such allegations against someone after 10-20 years and it can have damaging impact on the accused’s reputation, then everyone needs to think twice on it. It would have been better if the allegations were made when the alleged crime took place, and not after 20 years,” he said.
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