As more and more women journalists come forward with their horrifying tales of sexual harassment at the hands of their boss MJ Akbar who is now a minister in the Modi regime, the government strangely has decided to just keep mum and wish it will blow away. Akbar’s senior minister in the MEA is a veteran woman Sushma Swaraj who ducked questions followed by another minister who refused to answer. A government who has been paying lip service to women empowerment can hardly risk not taking note of such serious charges as the issue is only likely to escalate and not die down as the government may be hoping. #MeToo is here to stay, Mr Modi.
The government on Wednesday continued to maintain silence on the allegations of sexual misconduct against Union Minister M.J. Akbar even as the Congress sought his resignation.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who briefed reporters about cabinet decisions, refused to answer any question other than those pertaining to cabinet decisions, including that on Akbar and the #MeToo campaign.
“Today the issue is cabinet decisions, please concentrate on that,” he said in response to a question about allegations against Akbar.
“The issue is cabinet decisions,” Prasad again said when reporters pressed for an answer from him on the issue.
On Tuesday, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj did not answer media queries about allegations concerning Akbar. As reporters persisted with their questions and asked if there will be a probe, she walked past them without giving an answer.
At least six women journalists have accused Akbar, a former editor, of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour.
Congress spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy has demanded Akbar’s resignation, saying keeping silent is not good.
The Congress asked former Editor and Union Minister M.J. Akbar to either come clean following sexual harassment charges against him or resign. It also sought an independent probe into the charges against Akbar.
“Akbar has a stature as a journalist, apart from being a minister. He should offer a satisfactory explanation either through a statement or personally, or resign forthwith,” Congress spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy told the media here.
“How can he be in the Ministry with such serious allegations levelled by responsible journalists who have worked with him. Let there be an inquiry. We demand an inquiry against Akbar,” said Reddy.
At least six women journalists have accused Akbar, now the Minister of State for External Affairs, of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour when he was an Editor.
The Congress also targeted the Modi government, including External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, for keeping mum on the issue.
“We had hoped that women cutting across political lines will come out in support of these brave women who have now come out and revealed their ordeal and tragic stories. Unfortunately, Sushma Swaraj, to whom many look up to for inspiration, has chosen to stay quiet,” said Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi.
“It also raises a finger at the government that talks of women empowerment and safety but maintains a dubious silence on the matter,” she said.
Chaturvedi also demanded an apology from BJP MP Udit Raj, who on Tuesday sought to question why women were coming out with their stories 10 years after the alleged incidents and dubbed it as the “beginning of wrong practice”.
“We strongly condemn Udit Raj’s shameless comments. But considering the fact that his party (BJP) has refused to take cognisance of the remarks, it can be taken as an endorsement… Udit Raj should be made to apologise,” added Chaturvedi.
Breaking its silence on sexual harassment cases emerging from the Indian entertainment and media industry under the “MeToo” movement, the NCW appealed to the affected women to lodge written complaints and assured of all possible help.
“The National Commission for Women (NCW) has noticed that in many such cases, victims do not want to go beyond naming and shaming the alleged offenders and lodge formal complaints. In such cases, the commission urges them to lodge written complaints with authorities concerned, including with the NCW,” it said in a statement.
Remaining silent on the number of women who had approached it till date, the panel said that the “prevalent culture of silence has long prevented women from speaking out and reporting such cases”.
The commission appreciated the bravery shown by the women who have spoken out and continue to come forward to help punish the perpetrators of such incidents.
“The NCW has continued to make efforts to reach out to all such woman who have come out with details of sexual harassment at workplace and offered all possible help. The commission is committed to facilitate and render all possible help to all women who have come forward and see their cases to a logical conclusion,” it added.
The NCW said that it has taken a serious note of sexual harassment cases reported in the media and strongly condemns any act of invasion of private space of women, adding that it is committed to ensuring the safety and dignity of women, including at workplaces. (IANS)