MJ Akbar’s resignation as the junior minister for external affairs should momentarily muffle up the crescendo built up by outraged women. As many as 20 women alleged being preyed on by Akbar while the latter was at an influential position at multiple media outlets. The #MeToo storm had engulfed the Narendra Modi government with pressure intensifying to axe the former editor known for his philandering ways.
For days, the Modi government was appallingly silent on the controversy. In the interregnum of high decibel protests, the minister was away on an official tour to Nigeria. Upon his return, Akbar reacted in a way many read as ‘conditioned reflex’. “Lies don’t have legs. Accusations without evidence have become a viral fever in the country”, he retorted indignantly. The erstwhile journalist reproached the women for their innuendos. What ensued was the filing of a criminal defamation suit against key complainant Priya Ramani. Akbar has hired a battery of 97 lawyers to fight out his personal battle against the aggrieved woman.
Akbar’s resignation has helped spare the blushes for the BJP led NDA coalition, especially months to go for the fresh elections. But the maelstrom is bound to have deeper ramifications. The fight for women’s justice has only begun. The #MeToo movement has aroused voices that lay buried and stifled in women, the victims of sexual predators at workplace. Let’s start with Akbar- a gifted writer with sound understanding of polity, society and history. He was one of those maverick editors who startled all with his defining experiments in journalism. At a time when the #MeToo revolution was not even in its cradle, Akbar elevated women to positions of eminence. Whether they were quid pro quos for the sexual favours he extracted from them is anybody’s guess today.
Heavens know how many #MeToo stories are still smouldering at newsrooms or other workplaces. But Akbar’s resignation should set the record straight. And, challenge the limits of an entrenched patriarchy in our conscience. Amorality and ravishing of females should no longer be the toast of juicy gossips. When we do that, we are also complicit in the perverse misdemeanours of the routine perpetrators. We are witness to the reconstruction the society has embraced at workplace. More and more women are flooding workplaces- taking up onerous responsibilities and breaking the glass ceiling. What has to change is our mental construct. Let us awaken our instincts. And, rediscover the moral compass which we have so often prided on. Time has come to walk the talk on morality- for everyone- puritans included. And, lead the change in psyche to bequeath a legacy that inspires rather than abashes.