Claims against Akbar must be verified: Shah
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah has said he was not in a position to comment on M J Akbar, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, as the claims against the minister needed to be “looked into”.
“It’s difficult to comment on something that comes on a website. One can put anything on a website. So, this needs to be checked. If that is true or false, whether such an incident happened or not,” Shah said in an interview on ETV late Friday.
“It will have to be seen if it is the same person who is levelling allegations or someone else has put it up (on social media). All these things will have to be seen. And once we do it, we will certainly think over it (the action against Akbar),” he added.
More than half-a-dozen women journalists have accused the minister of state for External Affairs of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour at various stages of his journalistic career, during which he launched and edited several newspapers.
Akbar is currently on an official tour abroad. He is yet to make a statement on the allegations against him.
On Friday, US-based journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp told online news portal HuffPost India that Akbar forcibly kissed her on the last day of her internship at The Asian Age office in 2007.
Earlier this week, FORCE magazine executive editor Ghazala Wahab, in an article on a news portal, wrote an account of her “harrowing experience” with Akbar.
Former Mint Lounge editor Priya Ramani, who wrote about a predatory “celebrity editor” without naming anyone in an article piece last year, on Monday publicly identified Akbar as the central character of her piece.
“I began this piece with my M J Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator – maybe they’ll share,” she said.
Journalist Shutapa Paul recalled in a series of tweets on Wednesday that as the India Today editor, whenever Akbar came to Kolkata, he would invite her to his hotel, usually after 8pm. He would then drink alcohol and ask her to also do so.
Other female journalists who have made allegations against Akbar include Prerna Singh Bindra, Sujata Anandan, Shuma Raha, Harinder Baweja and Anju Bharti.
Jewellery designer Farah Khan is the latest celebrity to share her opinion on the ongoing #MeToo movement in India. She says although she supports the brave women who have spoken out against their perpetrators, she also wants just the truth to be stated with no exaggerations as some may try to misuse it.
In a series of tweets yesterday, Khan said: I support the brave women who have spoken out against their perpetrators. But I also ask only the truth to be stated with no exaggerations, as the more honest and real we keep this the more successful it will be. Some will try to misuse it too.”
Meanwhile, lawyers Mrunalini Deshmukh and Vaibhav Krishnan have volunteered to provide legal aid to victims without charging any fee while the Indian Film & Television Directors’ Association (IFTDA) has issued notices to all directors who have been named by women for sexual harassment or assault.
IFTDA president Ashoke Pandit said notices had been sent to the accused filmmakers, including Sajid Khan and Vikas Bahl, seeking their response within ten days. If they do not respond, their names would be placed on the ‘non-co-operation’ list, following which the women could approach the two lawyers who have come forward to provide legal help, he added.
Journalists hold placards during a protest against what they say is sexual harassment in the workplace, in New Delhi yesterday.