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MJ Akbar faces #MeToo heat, asked to ‘cut short’ Nigeria visit, may be back today
From the Webdesk, 11/10/2018, Agartala

MJ Akbar, MoS for external affairs, is understood to have been asked to cut short his Nigeria visit, after more women alleged sexual harassment at the hands of the minister during his time as editor in several media organisations. Akbar was expected to return on Friday, but now he is likely to come back on Thursday, official sources said. 

Top government and party officials said they would take a “measured view” on his future. “The matter is under consideration, but his explanation is also important,” an official said.ET has learnt that the issue has been discussed by senior members in the government and the BJP. 

“There will be caution in decision making. We don’t want it to be a knee-jerk reaction. This is about women safety, an issue important to the PM, so it cannot be ignored.” 

“Some of the complaints are serious and they are being looked into,” an official said. The growing chorus against Akbar among journalists and political parties is also a concern for the party, a leader said. “When it relates to women and their safety, the BJP has always tried to maintain the right image,” the leader maintained. 

In the last four and half years, the Modi government has relieved some ministers of their portfolios either for incompetence or for not handling controversies well, but has never given in to the allegations of corruption raised by the opposition. “The PM and the government believe in trusting the team and not giving up on them when opposition goes after them. Hence, it will be careful this time too,” an official said. 

On Wednesday, journalist Saba Naqvi and writer Gazala Wahab recounted their experiences with Akbar. Wahab claimed Akbar would force himself on her in his cabin, and even got her desk changed to right outside his cabin, often calling her to do different tasks only to grope her. In her article, Wahab wrote during her initial years at the newspaper she “accepted everything as part of the office culture”. 

She concluded: “In the last 21 years, I had put all this behind me. I was determined not to be a victim and not let one monster’s debauchery ruin my career, even though occasionally I had nightmares. Maybe, now the nightmares will stop.” Naqvi without naming anyone narrated a few incidents that she faced in office with Akbar, who she described as a “predator who went on to become a senior politician”. 

Naqvi said though the editor had never laid a hand on her, what he did was nothing less than harassment. 

Meanwhile, Congress leader Jaipal Reddy said: “Akbar should either give a satisfactory answer to the allegations or resign. How can he be in the ministry?” AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has also demanded Akbar’s sacking. 

“During the debate on triple talaq bill in Lok Sabha, Akbar spoke about the Muslim women’s rights and the need to protect them. He has no respect for women in reality,” Owaisi said. 



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