Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale on Wednesday welcomed former journalist MJ Akbar’s decision to resign from his post in the External Affairs Ministry. “The Opposition was asking him to resign on moral grounds,” said Athawale. “This is a right decision taken by him. The allegations on him should be properly investigated.”
The Congress described Akbar’s resignation as a “victory of truth”. Party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi congratulated the women who stood firm with their charges against the minister despite the “brazen stance” taken by the government. The Congress leader criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for remaining silent on in the matter.
“I salute these women who stood their ground despite the brazen stance of the GoI [government of India], silence of the PM who speaks about women empowerment, the arrogant misuse of power by deploying a battery of lawyers against one woman and allowing the accused to continue in his role,” said Chaturvedi.
Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev called the resignation a “moral victory” for everyone. “MJ Akbar’s resignation is a moral victory for everyone,” she said. “The defamation case can’t change that. The #MeToo movement needs support across party lines.”
The Aam Aadmi Party praised the women who have accused Akbar of sexual harassment and demanded criminal proceedings against him. “We salute the courage of the 20 brave women who boldly faced Akbar’s intimidation and forced him to resign as a minister of government of India,” party spokesperson Dilip Pandey told PTI. “His resignation completely exposes the Bharatiya Janata Party that came to power with the slogan of ‘Chaal, Charita and Chehra’ [behaviour, character and personality].”
The Left parties said it was a victory of the #MeToo movement, but added that the resignation came come “too late”. “I think the Modi government was compelled to ask MJ Akbar to resign from the Union ministry as the #MeToo movement gained momentum in the country,” Communist Party of India General Secretary Sudhakar Reddy told PTI. “He should have resigned on the first day when his former colleagues made sexual harassment allegations against him.”
In a Vogue India article published last year, journalist Priya Ramani described how an acclaimed newspaper editor called her for a job interview to his “plush south Mumbai hotel” when she was 23 and he was 43. The editor – who she last week claimed was Akbar – did not meet Ramani in the hotel lobby and insisted that she meet him in his room. There, he offered her a drink. Though she refused, he drank vodka himself. She alleges that he went on to sing old Hindi songs to her and at one point, asked her to sit close to him.
In addition to Ramani, several journalists, including Shuma Raha, Ghazala Wahab and Shutapa Paul, have accused Akbar of calling women to his hotel rooms for interviews, or making women feel uncomfortable by seeking to be alone with them.