Union minister MJ Akbar has said the allegations of sexual harassment against him are “fabricated” and “spiced up”.
He said he will take legal actions against the women journalists who have levelled these allegations against him.
“The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice. I could not reply earlier as I was on an official tour abroad,” he said.
Akbar in a statement to news agency ANI said, “Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these wild and baseless allegations in order to decide our future course of legal action.”
Questioning the veracity of the allegations, Akbar asked why have these allegations been raised just before the 2019 Lok Sabha election. “Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill.”
“Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy. This is deeply distressing. I will be taking appropriate legal action,” the minister said, rubbishing all allegations of sexual harassment.
Akbar was on an official trip to Africa when these allegations emerged and landed in Delhi on Sunday morning. At the airport, initially he refused to comment on the matter. But when pressed on by the media to speak up, he gave a one-line comment: “statement will be issued later on”.
Akbar, a former journalist, faces serious allegations of sexual harassment. The allegations have been made by a number of women journalists, who have come forward as part of the #MeToo campaign that has been raging on the social media.
The first allegation against Akbar was made by journalist Priya Ramani. She has spoken about the alleged crime in an article for Vogue last year without naming him. However, recently, she said the person in the article was none other than Union minister MJ Akbar.
Moments after Akbar landed in India, senior journalist Ghazala Wahab demanded PM Modi to sack Akbar immediately. She said if the Modi government allows Akbar an escape, then it should also “bury” its ‘Beti Bacho, Beti Padhao’ slogan.
If the govt allows an escape to predator like @mjakbar then it should also bury it’s #BetiBachao slogan@SushmaSwaraj @nsitharaman @Manekagandhibjp @smritiirani
Ghazala Wahab (@ghazalawahab) October 14, 2018
After maintaining silence for days, BJP president Amit Shah on Saturday told a local news channel that the party will look into the case and “verify the allegations” against Akbar.
Amit Shah also said, “We have to check the veracity of the post and the person who posted it. You can also post something using my name. We will definitely look into the issue.”
On the other hand, the Congress had been demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak up on the issue. Senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma on Sunday said, “Why is the PM silent on such an important issue?”
Earlier, the party had demanded that Akbar should step down as the minister of state for external affairs.
Within the Modi government, women ministers like Textiles Minister Smriti Irani and Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi had earlier spoken on the issue.
While Maneka Gandhi said the matter should be probed, Irani maintained that Akbar must come forward and issue a statement on it.
BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy has also demanded Akbar’s resignation and called for an investigation against him. Speaking to India Today TV, he said the accounts given by the women journalists are prima facie evidence against Akbar.