MJ Akbar’s resignation following the allegations made against him as part of the #MeToo movement came too late. It looked shabby and insincere and that probably wasn't his fault. Now he is stuck without a seat of power and with a court case that is not likely to go very far towards an equitable legal result with him out of office.
There is nothing to fight for. These past three days have seen to that.
Lulled into the sense of confidence that he was home free vis-à-vis the government, the junior minister came out all guns blazing and not the least bit contrite. Instead of intimidating his accused fellow journalist Priya Ramani, the step triggered a stampede of support from as many as 20 other women who said, "Here's our story".
Even though it has been heard today between the various dates and the continuations and the dates and recesses it seems futile for Akbar to continue this case and have the tackiness of it all make periodical appearances in the media over an interminable period. A senior Delhi-based criminal lawyer who for professional reason withholds her name says that if the women had put together a case initially, they would have got traction. Now, there is no basis for a win for them, since the evidence is only based on accusations and denials... and it is Akbar's case.
By the same measure, Akbar also has nothing to gain by continuing this legal battle, whether monetarily or to underscore his innocence. Until Wednesday, he was fighting for his job. On Thursday, he is just offering more grist for the mill. It's time to pack it all in and take a sabbatical and hope it will all go away and that Akbar the journalist will survive. He should probably go and write a book because this is done and dusted, and legally pursuing these former staffers is only asking for more trouble and continuing the harassment. It is hard for anyone to believe that it was a conspiracy of any sort by 20 women and the longer the pursuit the more likely that the number will escalate.
The lawyer says, "If Akbar had not been beguiled and lulled into a sense of security on landing from his foreign tour and gone 'the if I hurt anyone inadvertently I regret it, youth often can be tactless and I am not that man anymore' route he may well have deflected much of the gunpowder." But the lack of repentance provoked more outrage and more stories. Also the public interest is waning and an ex-minister is not a rivetting story. In fact, the one danger here is that for #MeToo to maintain traction and hold the public's jaded appetite, one would need a bigger bang, a bigger name or else it will collapse for want of an audience.
In that lies the rub. With the fall of this minister, we are looking at the possibility of gross misuse, even manipulation in painting individuals into a corner. It is a possibility that cannot be dismissed.
But these are all passing showers on the clean-up of the work ethic. The past two weeks have caused havoc in the urban workplace. It will never be the same again. The move to courtesy and equality has been a quantum leap and the decorum of the daftar been given a huge fillip.
Women may have lost the battle, but they have won the war.
In the records, these women have done for female dignity what Claudette Colvin and Rosa Parks did for black equality by not going to the back of the bus and the 20 black students who entered Alabama schools in 1963 and ended segregation. They were pioneers.
So are these 20 women and all the others.
Updated Date: Oct 18, 2018 15:35:05 IST