Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah responded to the allegations of sexual assault against junior foreign minister MJ Akbar, saying that it remains to be seen if the allegations are true or false.
"We will have to verify whether these allegations are true or false. We have to check the veracity of the post and the person who posted it... (Is baare me zaroor sochenge) We will definitely look into the issue," Shah was quoted as saying by The Times of India.
Shah's reaction comes days after at least 14 women came out in the open to share their ordeal in newsrooms headed by Akbar during his journalism years.
His response also follows a host of questions being raised about the BJP's silence on the issue, and a cry for Akbar's resignation.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari called it a very "serious matter" and said, "The minister concerned needs to speak up. Silence cannot be a way out. This matter should be investigated. We would like to hear from both the minister in question and the prime minister on this issue". Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari wanted to know the government's stand during "India's Harvey Weinstein moment."
BJP leaders, however, were seen dodging pointed question about Akbar, who is on a foreign tour right now in his capacity as Minister of State for External Affairs. Akbar's senior in the ministry, Sushma Swaraj, usually known for her crisp unflinching responses to media queries, also evaded a response. She was seen walking away as a journalist tried to get a response from her.
While BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad refused to answer questions related to the journalist-turned-politician, Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said that it was for Akbar to respond to the charges. Irani, however, said that justice should be given to the "ladies who are speaking out".
Union minister Uma Bharti also responded to the allegations against Akbar, saying that the "issue is of the times when he was not a part of the Central government," while adding that the matter is between Akbar and the women, and the government can say nothing on this.
While Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi did not directly respond to the allegations against Akbar, she told a TV news channel Tuesday, "Men who are in positions of power often do this. And it applies to the media as well as to politics or senior personnel in companies."
She said when women have started talking, their allegations should be taken seriously. "Women are scared to speak out because they think people would make fun of them and doubt their character but now when they are speaking out we should take action on each and every allegation," she said.
Maneka has also written to the law ministry proposing to set up a panel of four retired Supreme Court judges to look into the allegations of sexual harassment that have surfaced in the #MeToo campaign.
MJ Akbar, formerly the editor of Asian Age newspaper and now junior minister for external affairs, has been accused by several former female colleagues of sexual harassment during his time at various media organisations.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Oct 13, 2018 09:19 AM