#MeToo: Union Minister MJ Akbar resigns over allegations of sexual harassment (PTI Photo)
New Delhi :
Union Minister MJ Akbar on Wednesday resigned over the allegations of sexual harassment by as many as 20 women as part of the #MeToo movement gripping the country. Akbar is the first minister of the Narendra Modi cabinet who stepped down after facing serious charges of sex harassment and appropriate behaviour.
"Since I have decided 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 levelled against me..." the minister said in a statement after tendering his resignation.
The minister had earlier denied the allegations and refused to step down. He even filed a defamation case against one of the accusers - Priya Ramani. The resignation came a day after another woman, Tushita Patel, also a journalist, alleged that Akbar had kissed her forcibly and once greeted her dressed only in his underwear.
In an article published in the Scroll.in, Patel, who was part of the team that started The Asian Age, said that she was surprised by the "complete lack of contrition and attempt to victim shame.
"I am reading with indignation, but not surprise, about your complete lack of contrition, your lies, your facetious arguments, your lack of sensitivity in your attempt to victim shame and some remarkably stupid statements. If I don't speak up now, I feel I'll be complicit in your crimes," Patel wrote in the article.
Patel said that her first encounter with the journalist-turned minister was in 1992 when she was a trainee in the Telegraph – one of the newspapers Akbar headed. Expressing her ordeal, she said that Akbar had called her to meet him in his hotel room.
"You opened the door dressed only in your underwear. I stood at the door, stricken, scared and awkward. You stood there like the VIP man, amused by my fear... Does greeting a 22-year-old in a state of undress pass your test of morality? Is that not "doing" something?" she wrote.
Earlier, several women, mostly journalists and former colleagues of Akbar when he was an editor of a newspaper, had accused him of sexual harassment. Ramani, against whom the minister had filed a defamation suit, was the first women to come out with the allegations of harassment against the former journalist.
Ramani had revealed that a 2017 article she had written about an unnamed editor's predatory behaviour was in fact about Akbar, now the Minister of State of External Affairs. Following Ramani's revelation, a number of women came forward with #MeToo stories of Akbar's "predatory" behaviour.