Claims against Akbar must be ver­i­fied: Shah

Gulf Times - - INDIA -

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.

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