'Either MJ Akbar is lying or age has caught up with him': Ghazala Wahab on Union minister's statement over harassment charges

Senior journalist Ghazala Wahab, one of the several women who have levelled charges of sexual misconduct against Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, lashed out at the former editor over his latest statement over the allegations.

In an article published by The Wire, Wahab wrote, "In attempting to refute my story of molestation and harassment, Akbar has tried to hide inside his supposedly 'very tiny cubicle, patched together by plywood and glass'. Either he is lying, or age has caught up with him. I would prefer believing the latter, so here is something to refresh his memory."

Wahab wrote that there was only one sentence in Akbar's statement — “Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison”— which had truth to it. "Indeed, lies do not have legs, which is why they cannot go far," she said.

Senior journalist Ghazala Wahab. Twitter/@GhazalaWahab

Senior journalist Ghazala Wahab. Twitter/@GhazalaWahab

Wahab further clarified that when she quit The Asian Age, she had handed over her resignation to Akbar's secretary Rachna Grover, who, Wahab claimed, "was a witness to not only what happened with me, but to those who came before and after me." In the article, Wahab also shared screenshots of WhatsApp conversations in which Grover is seen accepting that she was aware of the incident involving Wahab. Grover had earlier, in a statement to Free Press Journal, come to Akbar's defence.

As the #MeToo movement gained momentum in India, Akbar's name cropped up on social media when he was on an official trip to African nations.

Among the women who accused Akbar of sexual harassment are Priya Ramani, Ghazala Wahab, Shuma Raha, Anju Bharti and Shutapa Paul.

On 6 October, Wahab had tweeted:

In an article published by The Wire on 12 October, she then revealed in detail how she was molested and harassed by Akbar on several occasions when she was employed with The Asian Age.

After multiple women came out with accounts of alleged sexual harassment by the 67-year-old when he was a journalist, there were mounting demands for his removal from the Union council of ministers.

Hours after returning from a trip to Africa on Sunday, Akbar, in a statement, termed allegations of sexual harassment levelled against him as "false, fabricated and deeply distressing" and said he was taking appropriate legal action against them.

He also sought to link the allegations against him to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

"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," he said.

Akbar said the "false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage" to his reputation, and wondered why "this storm has risen" a few months before the general election.

"Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy. This is deeply distressing. As indicated above, I will be taking appropriate legal action," he said.

Ghazala's reaction came as Akbar filed a criminal defamation complaint against Ramani on Monday.

In his complaint, he has accused Ramani of "wilfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously" defaming him and has sought her prosecution under the penal provision on defamation.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Oct 15, 2018 19:59 PM

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