New Delhi: Union minister M J Akbar said on Wednesday he had resigned to fight allegations of sexual harassment levied by several women, the biggest scalp in the country’s #MeToo movement that gathered momentum last week.
Akbar has filed a defamation suit against one of the women who have accused him of a range of inappropriate behaviour during his career as a journalist before entering politics.
“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 in a personal capacity,” ANI, quoted Akbar as saying in a statement.
As the #MeToo movement gained ground, 19 women journalists who have worked with ‘The Asian Age’ newspaper, came out in support of their colleague Priya Ramani who has accused Akbar of sexual harassment, said a joint statement issued by them.
The journalists have urged the court to hear their testimonies against Akbar, claiming that some of them suffered sexual harassment by the minister and others have been a witness to it. Akbar, however, has denied the allegations and on Monday filed a private criminal defamation complaint against Ramani.
Hours after returning from a trip to Africa, the Union minister issued a statement trashing the charges against him, saying accusations without evidence has become a ‘viral fever’ among some sections.
Ramani Monday asserted that she was ready to fight the defamation complaint filed against her, and expressed disappointment over the minister’s statement, saying it paid no heed to the “trauma and fear of the survivors.”
“I am ready to fight the allegations of defamation laid against me as truth and the absolute truth is my only defence,” she had said.
The #MeToo movement, which began in the United States more than a year ago in response to accusations of sexual harassment and abuse by powerful men in the entertainment industry, gained traction in India in late September after the actress Tanushree Dutta said prominent actor Nana Patekar behaved inappropriately on the sets of a film they were shooting in 2008.
Patekar has denied any wrongdoing. Since then, more than a dozen men in the media, entertainment, political and art worlds have been accused of offences, ranging from sexual harassment to rape.
(With inputs from Reuters, PTI and IANS)