#MeToo effect: Minister of "External affairs" MJ Akbar resigned

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi

Akbar had resigned earlier in the evening as the Minister of State for External Affairs in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against him by as many as 20 women journalists.

Akbar had, on Monday, filed a defamation complaint before a Delhi court against journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first to level such allegations against him as part of the #MeToo movement.

He said in a statement that since he had made a decision to challenge the "false accusations" against him in his "personal capacity", he felt it was appropriate to step down from office.

Akbar, who was appointed minister of state for external affairs in 2016, began his journalism career in 1971, rising to become one of the nation's most influential editors. He said he was "deeply grateful" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his senior Minister Sushma Swaraj for "the opportunity they gave me to serve the country".

Akbar had filed criminal defamation proceedings against Ramani for alleging he sexually harassed employees, a claim that was then backed up by more than 20 other former employees of the newspaper editor-turned-politician.

Even before Akbar's return to New Delhi from Equatorial Guinea on 14 October, highly placed government sources said that he had held extensive telephone consultations with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, at the prime minister's urging.

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"I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court #metoo", Ramani said in a Twitter post. The minister's resignation was also welcomed by several women journalists who had spoken of their personal experiences of Akbar's alleged misconduct when he was a well-known editor.

On Sunday, after returning from a trip overseas, the Minister called the allegations levelled by about 15 women journalists, most of whom who had worked under him in the Asian Age daily, as "wild, baseless and false" and had threatened to sue them. But "lots of women have worse stories about this predator - maybe they'll share". It is known news that, he is accused by multiple women of sex harassment.

Arti Jerath, a journalist and political commentator who is not among Akbar's accusers, said his resignation should have come earlier.

They pointed out how Akbar "has demonstrated through his legal actions is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused huge pain and indeed harm to many many women over the years. More strength to India's women", she said. In that piece, Ramani had written that Akbar had called her to his hotel room when she was 23 and he was 43 for a job interview which was "more date, less interview".

After Akbar's resignation, Ramani tweeted: "As women we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation".

Responding to the allegations after returning to India from an official visit overseas, Akbar called the allegations "false and fabricated" and questioned their timing, hinting at a political campaign against him.

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