MJ Akbar seeking to ‘silence’ victims through ‘intimidation and harassment’

New Delhi: Priya Ramani, the journalist who has alleged that Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs MJ Akbar sexually harassed her, on Monday said that she is “ready to fight” defamation case filed by the minister and claimed that Akbar is trying to silence all the victims through “intimidation and harassment”.

“The past two weeks have seen an upheaval, with several women from different professions, including journalists, making serious allegations of sexual harassment at the work place and instances of sexual misconduct against various editors, writers, filmmakers and others. In the case of M J Akhbar, at the time these incidents occurred, the complainant women were working for him. Those who have spoken up against Akbar have done so at great risk to their personal and professional lives,” Ramani said in a statement.

“At this moment, it is disingenuous to ask why they have spoken now, as we are well aware of the stigma and shame that sexual crimes inflict upon victims. Rather than cast aspersions on the intent and motives of these women, we must reflect on how to improve the workplace for future generations of men and women. This is why I wish to register my strong protest against Akbar’s most recent statement, which pays no heed to the trauma and fear of survivours or the courage required to speak truth to power,” she added.

Ramani further stated that she is “deeply disappointed that a Union Minister dismissed the detailed allegations of several women as a political conspiracy.”

“By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Akbar has made his stand clear: rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment. Needless to say, I am ready to fight allegations of defamation laid against me, as truth and the absolute truth is my only defence,” she added.

Ramani statement comes after Akbar earlier in the day filed a defamation case in Delhi’s Patiala House Court against her. A statement from Akbar’s lawyers confirmed that the complaint has been filed under sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code.

“The scandalous allegations leveled by the accused against the complainant herein, by their very tone and tenor, are ex-facie defamatory and have not only damaged the goodwill and reputation of the complainant, in his social circles and on the political stage, established after years of toil and hard work, but have also affected the personal reputation of the complainant in the community, friends, family and colleagues, thereby causing him irreparable loss and tremendous distress,” the statement read.

After the recent #MeToo campaign raged in India, at least seven women alleged Akbar of sexually harassing them in the 1990s, when he was working as the editor for various newspapers.

Akbar has been facing flak over the allegations, with opposition parties demanding the minister’s resignation. However, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader on Sunday did not indicate any decision to step down and said that he will take a legal recourse in the matter.