Charges against MJ Akbar to be examined: Amit Shah

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HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI: BJP president Amit Shah said the charges of sexual harassment against junior foreign minister MJ Akbar would be examined, even as he added that the veracity of the allegations levelled against the minister would need to be checked as well. “Dekhna padega yeh sach hai ya galat (We have to see whether these allegations are true or false). We have to check the veracity of the post and the person who posted it. You can also post something using my name.” But he significantly added: “Is par zaroor sochenge (We will definitely look into the issue).”

The comments, the first by the BJP leadership on the #MeToo storm that engulfed Akbar after several women journalists alleged that he had behaved inappropriately with them when he was editor at various publications, indicate that the party is taking serious note of the controversy.

Though Shah did say that social media could be a platform for unverifiable allegations, his comments point to a discussion within the BJP brass over the negative perceptions generated by the charges against Akbar. There is a strong view that his continuance in the government has become problematic. The allegations against Akbar continued to mount with another account surfacing on Friday. The party has been feeling the heat as social media continues to discuss the reports of sexual harassment.

Shah’s remarks that social media can provide a platform for just about any allegation point to the party’s dilemma as many of the allegations go back several years. But the controversy is threatening to undermine BJP’s claims to have taken several pro-women initiatives during the Modi government’s tenure.

Junior social justice and empowerment minister Ramdas Athavale said Akbar should resign if the allegations against him are found to be true. He said it was necessary to listen to Akbar’s side. He said the complaints are serious and it was for BJP to take action.

Akbar, who is currently on a tour of Africa, is due to return on Sunday. He is expected to meet senior party functionaries and respond to the allegations. The minister could make a statement on Monday with the pressure over his continuance mounting steadily and the media awaiting his return.

The latest account was by foreign journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp, who was 18 when she interned at the Asian Age in 2007. “He violated my boundaries, betrayed my trust and that of my parents,” she told HuffPost India. Majlie said she met Akbar through her parents who worked as foreign correspondents in Delhi in the 1990s.

“It happened 12 years ago, why didn’t I say something sooner? I’d locked it away. I never felt the need to say anything because it had had little effect on my life. The reason I’m saying this now, and the reason I’m attaching my name to it mostly has to do with being a journalist myself. I ask people… to share intimate stories with me because I think it is important… they’re heard,” she wrote to HuffPost.

Source: Economic Times