Union Minister MJ Akbar resigned from his post on Wednesday amidst mounting pressure from journalists and activists in the wake of serious allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
As many as 20 female journalists had come forward to allege that they had been sexually harassed by Akbar during his time as the editor of Asian Age and The Telegraph newspapers in the 90s. Akbar, for his part, has vehemently denied the allegations against him and filed a criminal defamation against journalist Priya Ramani.
But, even before allegations against Akbar came to light, Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi had announced that she will form a committee of four retired judges and a lawyer to look into the allegations of sexual harassment made by women under what’s being described as India’s own MeToo campaign.
However, on Wednesday, the Centre’s Narendra Modi government announced that it was setting up a group of ministers headed by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The GoM, which has reportedly replaced Maneka Gandhi’s proposed committee of retired judges and a lawyer, will look into the general adequacy of sexual harassment laws.
Meanwhile, journalist Abhisar Sharma has taken to to social media to allege that the Prime Minister’s Office had sensationally shot down the idea proposed by Maneka Gandhi to form a committee of retired judicial officers to address the complaints of sexual harassment. This revelation assumes significance in light of Modi’s much-hyped campaign to protect and educate a girl child through Beti Bachao, Beto Padhao campaign.
— Abhisar Sharma (@abhisar_sharma) October 17, 2018
Also, no sooner had the news of MJ Akbar’s resignation became public, the usual suspects in the India media moved in with lightning speed to credit Modi with his minister’s decision to step down. Channels like Republic TV and Times Now were quick to claim that Akbar had not resigned but been sacked by Modi, who was reportedly upset with the severity of the allegations against him.
However, in light of shocking revelations made by journalist Abhisar Sharma, it is clear that the prime minister has not taken the recent allegations of sexual harassment seriously. The question also arises that if the PM was indeed was serious about dealing with charges of sexual harassment, why did he shoot down Maneka Gandhi’s proposal to have such allegations examined by retired judges?
Instead, the government has now formed a committee comprising three cabinet ministers to explore the general efficacy of the existing laws on sexual harassment.