Union Minister MJ Akbar, accused of sexual harassment by about twenty women, resigned on Wednesday. He is the first minister of BJP in five years of its rule who has resigned over an accusation. He is the most high profile person to resign from his job as a result of #MeToo movement in India. Two days ago, Mr Akbar had sued one of his 20 accusers Priya Ramani for defamation, alleging a conspiracy to harm his goodwill and reputation.
“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 levied against me, also in a personal capacity. I have, therefore tendered my resignation from the Office of Minister of State for External Affairs. I am deeply regretful to the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and to the External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj for the opportunity they gave me to serve my country,” Akbar tweeted in the evening after sending his resignation to concerned authority.
— M.J. Akbar (@mjakbar) October 17, 2018
On October 14 after returning to India from his official tour Akbar had tweeted his long statement and defended himself. “It is pertinent to remember that both Ms Ramani and Ms Wahab kept working with me even after these alleged incidents; this clearly establishes that they had no apprehension and discomfort,” he said in his statement.
— M.J. Akbar (@mjakbar) October 14, 2018
On Monday, Akbar sued Priya Ramani, the first woman to name him, and accused her of vested interests in maligning his reputation on the basis of false, frivolous and scandalous grounds.
Mobashar Jawed Akbar is a journalist turned politician and currently BJP Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh. He has resigned from the post of Union Minister however will remain a member of the upper house as he has not resigned from the Rajya Sabha.
“As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar’s resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court,” NDTV quoted Priya Ramani.
#MeToo spread virally in October 2017 as a hashtag used on social media in an attempt to demonstrate the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, especially in the workplace. It followed soon after the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein. Tarana Burke, an American social activist and community organizer, began using the phrase “Me Too” as early as 2006, and the phrase was later popularized by American actress Alyssa Milano, on Twitter in 2017. Milano encouraged victims of sexual harassment to tweet about it and “give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem”.
#MeToo movement gained momentum in India after Tanu Shree Dutta accused Nana Patekar. Since then, Alok Nath, Sajid Khan, Vinod Dua, Fairoz Khan, Jatin Das (Father of famous film actress Nandita Das), Subhash Ghai, Vikas Bahl, and some more men in the media, entertainment, political and art worlds have been accused of offences, ranging from sexual harassment to rape.