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Facing spate of past sex-harassment charges, MoS External Affairs MJ Akbar may have to resign

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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Caught in a spate of allegations of sexual misconduct by his former junior female journalists, Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, presently on a visit to Nigeria, may be asked to resign upon his return today, Thursday, October 11, said media reports.

Over the past few days, Akbar’s colleagues in Narendra Modi government have watched with growing concern and unease as, one after the other, seven women journalists levelled charges of sexual harassment against him and one of them accused him of molesting her.

Akbar was likely to return to India from Nigeria on Thursday instead of Friday, said a report in the Economic Times (ET).

Akbar will be asked to go as soon as he returns from his visit to Nigeria, said a report in Firstpost quoting ‘a highly-placed source in the BJP government at the Centre’. The source elaborated that the party is expected to offer Akbar an ‘honourable exit’, the Firstpost report said. “He will be given a chance to explain himself but most probably he will be asked to resign immediately after his visit from Nigeria,” the source told Firstpost.

“The matter is under consideration, but his explanation is also important,” said the ET report quoting a party office bearer. The report added that the matter was discussed by senior members of the government and the ruling 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,” the report quoted a leader as saying.

“It is important to remember that all these allegations are from the days of Akbar’s journalistic career,” said a senior BJP leader. “Not one is related to his stint as Minister.”

Now a Rajya Sabha MP and the Minister of State for External Affairs, Akbar was the founding editor of The Telegraph, had launched The Asian Age and worked at a number of other media organisations, including The Sunday Guardian.

While there has been no reaction from Akbar, on a visit to Nigeria with a trade delegation, or the Government so far, the Opposition ramped up pressure raising questions on the Government’s commitment to women’s rights. The Congress said Akbar must either offer a satisfactory explanation or resign.

On Wednesday the Congress demanded that Akbar explain the allegations or step down from the position.

“MJ Akbar has the stature of being a veteran journalist in addition to being junior External Affairs Minister. Sushma Swaraj could not comment on her own subordinate. MJ Akbar should either come out with a satisfactory explanation or must resign from the post in the government. We demand an inquiry into the allegations. If Justice Kavanaugh can be asked for an explanation, then why not MJ Akbar, who allegedly did whatever he did much later in his life than Kavanaugh,” Congress leader Jaipal Reddy said, invoking the controversial entry of #MeToo-accused Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court.

It was a tweet by journalist Priya Ramani — in which she replugged an earlier article — calling Akbar a ‘predator’ that set the wheels in motion. A number of women subsequently retweeted and shared their own encounters with Akbar, accusing him of making them feel uncomfortable by calling them to his hotel rooms for interviews, inviting himself to their houses with a bottle of alcohol to even turning up at their houses for coffee.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text css=”.vc_custom_1539257527212{border-top-width: 10px !important;border-right-width: 10px !important;border-bottom-width: 10px !important;border-left-width: 10px !important;padding-top: 10px !important;padding-right: 10px !important;padding-bottom: 10px !important;padding-left: 10px !important;background-color: #cccccc !important;}”]Priya Ramani had said “Akbar is an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer.” “You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault. Speaking up against you still carries a heavy price that many young women cannot afford to pay,” her article said. Detailing how he made her uncomfortable, she said he had called her for a job interview to a “plush south Mumbai hotel” when she was 23 and he was 43. Akbar did not meet Ramani in the hotel lobby and insisted that she meet him in his room. There, he offered her a drink. Although she refused, he drank vodka, sang old songs to her and asked her to sit close to him, she alleged.

Soon after Ramani’s account, more women journalists came forward with their stories. A journalist named Shuma Raha said Akbar called her to his hotel room for an interview for Asian Age in Kolkata’s Taj Bengal in 1995. She said that he didn’t “do” anything, but “an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink that evening was rattling and deeply uncomfortable”. She said she declined the job offer.

Another journalist, Prerna Singh Bindra, said Akbar also called her to his hotel room to ‘discuss work’ after she had fired the edition at midnight. She alleged that he “made life at work hell” for her when she refused.

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 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.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Apart from Ramani, Ghazala Wahab, Saba Naqvi, Shutapa Paul, Shuma Raha, Suparna Sharma and Prerna Singh Bindra accused the junior minister of sexual harassment over the course of his time as a journalist.

While most women leaders of the BJP have not commented on the allegations against Akbar, many came out in support of the #MeToo campaign which has over the last few days taken the social media by storm with women sharing their stories of sexual harassment by men in media, film and entertainment. Akbar, a former editor, is the first political figure to feature in that growing list.

Maneka Gandhi, the union minister for women and child development, on Tuesday became the first BJP leader to call for an investigation against the former editor, who was named in the snowballing #MeToo movement in India.

“There should be an investigation. Men in position of power often do this. This applies to media, politics and seniors working in companies. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously,” Maneka Gandhi told news channel India Today when asked about allegations surfacing against a “big” politician.

“I am happy about the campaign,” Union Minister Uma Bharati told The Indian Express. “Now there will be a change in the atmosphere at the workplace. Men will not dare to harass or assault women. Women can work without fear and they can come out if anyone tries to harm her because of her gender. Men will be careful now,” Bharati said.

Similar sentiments were expressed by LoK Sabha MPs Meenakshi Lekhi and Poonam Mahajan.

Bharti saw the #MeToo campaign as a “good” movement. “I want everyone to stand by women who have come out disclosing the names of these men who had made their lives difficult. I would like then to start another campaign “I did it’ .. they should be proud of what they did. That will be useful for more women to come out.”

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has refused to answer questions on the allegations against her junior minister.

Speaking to CNN-News18, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “I cannot speak on the MeToo movement, but I support the courage with which many women have spoken out. This must be a hard memory on the women who have faced these incidents.”

She, however, declined to comment on the allegations against MJ Akbar.

Yuva Morcha National President and BJP MP Poonam Mahajan said: “The #MeToo India campaign is merely scratching the surface for what a women actually goes through daily. I am so happy that the conversation has started and we need to reach a place where women are safe in work place, at home and society in general. I am hopeful that this will help educate people on women’s rights and it is important that it extends beyond just the internet.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Akhilesh Yadav says people are so angry they will make it difficult for BJP to win 140 seats

Yadav accused the BJP of neglecting farmers and waiving loans of only industrialists and promised that the loans of farmers will be waived after the INDIA bloc government is formed.

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Akhilesh Yadav says people are so angry they will make it difficult for BJP to win 140 seats

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday said it would be difficult for the BJP to win even 140 seats in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. Yadav took a jibe over the NDA’s slogan of Abki baar 400 paar, and said, they have forgotten their slogan of crossing 400 Lok Sabha seats. He added the people are so angry that they will make it difficult for the BJP to win even 140 seats.

The SP leader attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he has started stumbling due to anxiety. He accused the BJP of neglecting farmers and waiving loans of only industrialists and promised that the loans of farmers will be waived after the INDIA bloc government is formed. Akhiliesh Yadav was addressing a joint rally in support of Congress candidate from Maharajganj, Virendra Chaudhary.

The former Uttar Pradesh CM accused the central government of deliberately leaking recruitment exam papers so that the youth remains unemployed and in order to snatch reservation. Yadav promised the people that the opposition parties will provide jobs and demolish the Agniveer scheme of recruitment in the Indian army after the INDIA alliance government is formed.

He pointed that BJP is putting up big tents for their events but people are not coming. He further added the BJP is making the government officials sit in the election rallies in plain clothes to fill the tents. Lok Sabha elections are going to take place in Maharajganj on June 1.

Earlier the SP leader told the media that they have seen massive voting in favour of SP and INDIA bloc in the sixth phase. People have extended unprecedented support to them and it seemed that the NDA will be left much behind. He said earlier he used to say that the INDIA Bloc are ahead in 79 seats and the fight is only 1 seat. But now it seems that they are ahead on all 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

PM Modi attacks AAP government in Punjab, says they have destroyed industry and farming

PM Modi attacked the Congress and said the party has done double Ph.D in corruption. He attacked the AAP government in the state and said they have destroyed industry and farming.

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PM Modi attacks AAP government in Punjab, says they have destroyed industry and farming

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed an election rally on Thursday for the ongoing Lok Sabha elections at Hoshiarpur in Punjab. He said the time has come for a full majority government at the Centre after decades. He remembered Guru Ravidas and said that he was the inspiration for working towards the welfare of the poor. The prime minister expressed his wish for Adampur airport, which serves Jalandhar and Hoshiarpur, to be named after Guru Ravidas.

The prime minister noted that it was his last public meeting of this year’s Lok Sabha election, he said Hoshiarpur is called Chotti Kashi and is Guru Ravi Das’s tapobhoomi. PM pointed out that Varanasi, from where he is an MP, Guru Ravidas was born there. Therefore, in this pious land of Hoshiarpur, closing of the election campaign, for him is a matter of pride.

He targeted the opposition parties and the I.N.D.I.A bloc and said they sought proof of surgical strike and did not show any concern about the army and emptied the government treasury. He attacked the Congress and said the party has done double Ph.D in corruption. PM Modi also attacked the AAP government in the state and said they have destroyed industry and farming. He said every Indian is aligned with Viksit Bharat dream and is giving them their blessings.

The prime minister was confident that 21st century is India’s century and said the dumdaar sarkar is coming back. PM Modi further added that in 10 years, the prime minister has given a robust government that vanquished the nation’s enemies and made India prosperous and self-reliant and said that his government had worked with the motive that Karam hi dharam hai for sabka sath sabka vikas. PM Modi said the BJP government has already prioritised works to be done after coming to power. A 125-day roadmap has already been prepared.

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2024 Lok Sabha Elections

Manmohan Singh accuses PM Modi of using hateful language, urges voters to protect democracy and Constitution from despotic regime

Manmohan Singh appealed to the voters that they have 1 final chance to ensure that democracy and India’s Constitution are protected from the repeated assaults of a despotic regime, trying to unleash dictatorship in India.

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Manmohan Singh accuses PM Modi of using hateful language, urges voters to protect democracy and constitution from despotic regime

Former PM Manmohan Singh on Thursday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of using hateful, unparliamentary language to target either a specific section of society or opposition.  He wrote a letter to Punjab’s voters ahead of the 7th phase of Lok Sabha elections on June 1.

Singh appealed to the voters that they have 1 final chance to ensure that democracy and India’s Constitution are protected from the repeated assaults of a despotic regime, trying to unleash dictatorship in India. Manmohan Singh said the prime minister indulged in the most vicious form of hate speeches. He said PM Modi has lowered the dignity of public discourse.

Singh said he has been closely monitoring the political discourse during this year’s election campaign and PM Modi has indulged in the most vicious form of hate speeches, which are purely divisive in nature. He said PM Modi is the first PM to lower the dignity of public discourse, and thereby the gravity of the office of the prime minister.

The senior Congress leader said no prime minister in the past has uttered such hateful, unparliamentary and coarse terms, meant to target either a specific section of the society or the opposition. He has also attributed some false statements to him. Singh further added that he had never in his life singled out one community from the other and this is the sole copyright of the BJP.

PM Modi had accused Manmohan Singh of saying that Muslims have the first right on the country’s resources. The former PM also criticised the saffron party for imposing the Agniveer Scheme on the armed forces, labeling it as ill-conceived. He accused the BJP of undermining patriotism, bravery, and service by limiting their value to just 4 years and highlighted it as fake nationalism. The Congress party has therefore promised to abolish the Agniveer Scheme.

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