As #MeToo movement has taken the social media by storm with more women sharing their experiences of sexual harassment across India, Union Minister Smriti Irani on Thursday reacted to the allegations levelled against her ministerial colleague MJ Akbar. Interacting to media, the actress-turned-politician said the gentlemen concerned would be in a better positioned to speak on this issue.
Irani's statement came amid calls for Minister of State for External Affairs and former journalist MJ Akbar’s resignation on charges of sexual assault of some of his former colleagues in the cabinet.
"The gentlemen concerned would be in a better positioned to speak on this issue. I appreciate that the media is accosting his female colleagues. Anybody who is speaking out should in no way be shamed, victimized or mocked," Irani was quoted by media as saying.
#WATCH: Union Minister Smriti Irani reacts on #MJAkbar, says 'The gentlemen concerned would be better positioned to speak on this issue. I appreciate that the media is accosting his female colleagues...Anybody who is speaking out should in no way be shamed, victimised or mocked.' pic.twitter.com/nFam61Cn20— ANI (@ANI) October 11, 2018
Expressing her concern over victims of sexual assault, the Textile minister said, "They go to work to live their dreams and earn a respectable living. I am hopeful that all these ladies who are speaking out get the justice that they deserve".
Women don’t go to work to be harassed. They go to work to live their dreams&earn a respectable living. I am hopeful that all these ladies who are speaking out get the justice that they deserve: Union Minister Smriti Irani on #MeToo pic.twitter.com/3PbxHMt44w— ANI (@ANI) October 11, 2018
In view of this rising controversy, Union Minister for women and child development Menaka Gandhi also demanded an investigation against Akbar.
Trouble found Akbar after journalist Priya Ramani took to social media revealing her gut-wrenching experience of facing a sexual misconduct during a job interview with a ‘renowned journalist’ who had "transformed Indian journalism".
In October 2017, Ramani had first narrated her ordeal of being sexually harassed but did not mention the name of the journalist, she was talking about. After #MeToo movement engulfed the entertainment, sports and media industry all over India, Ramani claimed that the journalist she was referring to was MJ Akbar.
To give another edge to the controversy, journalist Shutapa Paul also recalled a 2011 incident of sexual assault and said, "As I tried to dash out the door, #MJAkbar gave me a hard hug, I ducked whatever else could have followed and fled. He seemed amused at my ducking."
Talking about his political career, Akbar joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of 2014 general elections and was later elected to the Rajya Sabha after the Saffron party formed the government in the Centre. He was made the Minister of State for External Affairs in 2016. Akbar served as an editor of many publications before he started his stint into politics.
As per the latest report, MJ Akbar can be asked to quit the ministry as the ongoing demand for his resignation is getting louder with each passing day.
Amid this growing controversy all over India, oppositions have also jumped on to this bandwagon, accusing EAM Sushma Swaraj of not responding to the demand of action against her junior minister MJ Akbar. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, however, chose to remain tight-lipped on the issue, saying that he "will comment on it in a further press conference".