MJ Akbar in #MeToo storm: Seven women journalist accuses him sexual assault

MJ Akbar in #MeToo storm: Seven women journalist accuses him sexual assault
Photo: AFP

MJ Akbar has come under fire after a woman journalist Priya Ramani claimed on Twitter that in the article which she had written for Vogue India in 2017 about her gut-wrenching incident of sexual misconduct was to expose MJ Akbar. At least seven women journalists have accused Akbar of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour when he was an editor.

Priya Ramani

Priya is a senior journalist and with her tweet on 8th October has opened floodgates of allegations against MJ Akber, Minister of State for External Affairs. She tweeted ‘I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t “do” anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator—maybe they’ll share”. Further, “he called me to his hotel room late at night for an interview and offered me with a drink. He even asked me to sit close to him on the bed. He passed bawdy comments and sang Hindi songs.” alleged Priya Ramani.

Ghazala Wahab:

Ghazala is an executive editor at Force, a print magazine on national security, and co-author of ‘Dragon on Our Doorstep’. Earlier, she worked at Asian Age between 1994 and 1997. At that point of time, M J Akbar was founder editor of Asian Age. She described her nightmares with M.J. Akber in her twitter account. Initially, on 6th October, she wrote that ‘I wonder when the floodgates will open about @mjakbar’. Along with Twitter, she wrote in detail in The Wire, where she gave a detailed account of her fateful encounter with M J Akber. She said that MJ Akber has been her favourite author ever since her father gave MJ Akber’s book to her. She further added that ‘at Asian Age office Akber sexually harassed and molested her several occasions.

Shutapa Paul:

Paul is currently working as group editor of new-age digital media startup, News. She has been a journalist for over a decade across the mediums of newspapers, television, magazines and digital media. Her twitter account while describing her experience with MJ Akber wrote “in 2010, I joined India Today in Kolkata. I was excited to be part of the organisation, my dream job. This job meant a lot to me coming a month after I lost my father, whose illness had compelled me to shift base from Delhi”. Further, she added, “When MJ Akber 1st came to Kolkata to meet the team at ITC Sonar, just as we were about to leave, he squeezed my elbow rather painfully and said that I should call him directly if I needed something. I didn’t react thinking that he was only being encouraging as a boss”. While explaining the reason for her silence all these years, she wrote, “I’m better equipped to handle the trauma and stress if a similar incident happened today but as a 26-year-old who had just lost her father in 2010, I struggled badly. Today, I’m ready to talk about the sexual predator that is MJ Akber.”

Harinder Baweja:

Harinder is a journalist at Hindustan Times and author of the book ‘a soldier’s diary, about the Kargil war. In her Twitter account on 8th October she wrote in response to Priyaramani’s tweet that ‘so many of us have an MJ story. “Can I come over to your house with a bottle of rum?” he said. No, was the answer…. Couldn’t ‘do’ anything. Some don’t get the meaning of NO… they move on to the next move, don’t they?”

Prerna Singh Bindra:

Bindra is an environmental journalist and author of ‘The Vanishing, India’s Wildlife Crisis. She spoke about several sexual harassment experiences throughout her career. She wrote about MJ Akber that “he made lewd comments, once when we had a meeting with the entire features team. One of the girls told me later he had asked them to meet him in the hotel too. I was alone in the city, vulnerable, fighting battles on personal fronts. I kept quiet, she concluded. She wrote in her twitter account that “Once, I recall going for a story in Mumbai Mantralaya, and the officer tried to grab me. And I thought whom do I complain to my editor is made of same stuff. And I walked away from AA. Dug up dirt-on corruption-on the officer, but the next newspaper refused to publish it”.

Kanika Gahlaut:

Kanika is a Delhi based journalist and the author of the book ‘Among the Chatterati. She said, in her interview to The Indian Express that “One did hear, from the beginning, from before we joined that MJ had a glad eye, and we were forewarned, he did it to everyone”. She further added that MJ Akber invited her to come to the hotel; she initially agreed to go but didn’t go to meet him.

Saba Naqvi:

Saba Naqvi is a political journalist and the author of the book ‘the shades of saffron. In her article on the Dialyo.in she alleged sexual harassment by MJ Akber. She alleges that when she was working as a trainee at Asian Age in Calcutta, MJ Akber was editor in late 80’s. She said that ‘the trick to evade him was to take to your heels if sighted the editor in the corridor. I managed it but eventually quit my job and flew back to Delhi.’