Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least 14 women, on Sunday denied all the allegations levelled against him, calling them "false and fabricated" and "spiced up by innuendo and malice". Akbar released a statement after returning to India, saying he could not respond to the allegations earlier as he was on an official tour of African nations.
In his statement, Akbar said his lawyers will look into the "wild and baseless" allegations of sexual misconduct against him, and he will take legal action against the women for false charges.
"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 also questioned why the accusations had emerged before the upcoming general elections, claiming that there was an agenda. "Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill," he said in his first response to the matter.
"Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy. This is deeply distressing. I will be taking appropriate legal action," he added.
Although Akbar has claimed innocence and rubbished the accounts of 14 women, there was no word in his statement on whether the central government will allow him to retain his position as the Minister of State for External Affairs, or whether he will be asked to resign.
So far, at least 14 women have alleged that Akbar had made unwanted advances towards them when they worked together. This ranges from journalists who worked with Akbar during his time in top editorial positions at The Asian Age, The Telegraph and India Today, among others. In his statement on Sunday, Akbar individually referred to some of the accounts the women recalled, including of journalists Priya Ramani, Ghazala Wahab and Shutapa Paul, choosing to mention bits from their stories that said he "never did anything", leaving out their accounts detailing his "predatory" behaviour.
"Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not, however, name me as she knew it was an incorrect story. When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a tweet: 'Never named him because he didn't 'do' anything,'" Akbar said on Ramani's accusation. It was Ramani's tweet on 8 October that had prompted several women to share their "MJ stories".
— Akhilesh Sharma (@akhileshsharma1) October 14, 2018
"If I didn't do anything, where and what is the story? There's no story. But a sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened. Some are total, unsubstantiated hearsay; others confirm, on the record, that I didn't do anything," Akbar said.
He also denied journalist Shutapa Paul's allegations, among others, saying that "Let me note examples. Shutapa Paul states, 'The man never laid a hand on me.' Shuma Raha says, 'I must clarify, however, that he didn't actually 'do' anything. One woman, Anju Bharti, went to the absurd extent of claiming I was partying in a swimming pool. I do not know how to swim."
Reacting on senior journalist Gazala Wahab's accusations, Akbar said: "Another accusation was made repeatedly by Ms Ghazala Wahab, in an effort to damage my reputation. She claimed that she had been molested in office, 21 years ago. This is 16 years before I entered public life, and when I was in media."
Contrary to Wahab's description of Akbar's office, the statement noted that at the said time he had a "tiny cubicle". "The only office where I worked with Ghazala Wahab was that of The Asian Age. A part of the editorial team then worked out of a small hall. At the time concerned, I had a very tiny cubicle, patched together by plywood and glass. Others had tables and chairs two feet away. It is utterly bizarre to believe that anything could have happened in that tiny space, and, moreover, that no one else in the vicinity would come to know, in the midst of a working day. These allegations are false, motivated and baseless."
Akbar added: "Ms Wahab states that she complained to Ms Veenu Sandal, who wrote features for the paper. Ms Sandal has described Ms Wahab's version as nonsense, in an interview to The Indian Express. Ms Sandal has also said that she has never heard, in 20 years, anybody accusing me of doing any such thing."
"It is pertinent to remember Ms Ramani and Ms Wahab kept working with me even after these alleged incidents; clearly establishes they had no apprehension and discomfort. The reason why they remained silent for decades is very apparent, as Ms Ramani has herself stated, I never did anything," Akbar has remarked.
Updated Date: Oct 14, 2018 17:15:28 IST