Indian government minister steps down as country’s #MeToo movement gains traction

Frederick Owens
October 20, 2018

More than a dozen women who worked with Akbar during his days as an editor had come out with allegations ranging from sexual harassment to assault. The minister was earlier defiant and ignored demands seeking his resignation.

The development comes after another woman journalist accused him of sexual harassment and 17 women journalists who have worked with "The Asian Age" newspaper, came out in support of their colleague Priya Ramani.

On Sunday, after returning from a trip overseas, the Minister called the allegations levelled by about 15 women journalists, most of whom who had worked under him in the Asian Age daily, as "wild, baseless and false" and had threatened to sue them.

Akbar, issues a statement saying, "Since I have chose to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down and challenge the false accusations levied against me in my personal capacity".

Reacting to Akbar's resignation, Ramani said, "As women, we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation". Luthra quoted Ramani's October 8 tweet where she first named Akbar, and at the hearing said, "predator is a very strong word". "Since I have made a decision to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations levied against me (sic)", he said in a statement.

"Be it action against BJP MLA Senger in Unnao, be it the Kathua rape case or be it the bone chilling exploitation of girls and women in Muzaffarpur, Deoria and Bhopalor be it the Naliya sex racket in Gujarat or be it the unprecedented attack by sexual predators on women and girls across India", he is silent, Ms Nayak alleged.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician M.J. Akbar takes the oath during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers, July 5, 2017, at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi.

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He has denied the accusations and filed a lawsuit against one of the women for defaming him.

Akbar had been facing flak over allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards women, with opposition parties also mounting attack on the government and demanding his ouster.

Her tweet prompted other women to come forward with their own stories, naming Mr Akbar.

The #Me Too movement in India exploded after actress Tanushree Dutta spoke of harassment by actor Nana Patekar on the set of the film Horn OK Pleassss a decade ago.

Sandeep Shastri, a political analyst at Jain University in the city of Bengaluru, said Akbar's defamation lawsuit and then subsequent his resignation could indicate damage limitation by the government.

"This was long overdue and it was important that Mr Akbar took moral responsibility for his actions and stepped down from his post".

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