MJ Akbar is being called Harvey Weinstein of India with India’s #MeToo movement gaining momentum. What started out as a tweet ended with the resignation of India’s Minister of State of External Affairs. Here is a timeline of how the chain of events unfolded.
Former Mint Lounge editor and journalist Priya Ramani, wrote in her article for Vogue India in October 2017, “You are an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer. You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault. Speaking up against you still carries a heavy price that many young women cannot afford to pay. Sometimes you are inconvenienced when the stories get out and you are asked to take a timeout. Often, you are quickly reinstated. Why would you need to evolve, right?”
Journalist Priya Ramani was the first to call Akbar out. She shared how he interviewed her in a hotel, offered her a drink (which she refused), asked her to sit next to him on the bed and even sang her romantic Hindi songs.
Next, Sujata Anandan claimed Akbar turned up drunk at her friend’s house for coffee and when she refused to go out with him made her life hell. She reacted to Priya Ramani’s tweet saying, “OMG! He turned up at my friend’s house one night for a coffee. As a single mother with a sleeping child she told him she could neither invite him in nor go out with him. From next day he made life hell for her at their workplace.”
OMG! He turned up at my friend's house one night for a coffee. As a single mother with a sleeping child she told him she could neither invite him in nor go out with him. From next day he made life hell for her at their workplace https://t.co/3XRj7oWK94
— Sujata Anandan (@sujataanandan) October 8, 2018
Harinder Baweja also reacted to Priya Ramani’s tweet saying, “So many of us have an MJ story.” She further wrote how Akbar used to ask journalists if he could come over to their house with a bottle of rum.
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…. Couldnt 'do' anything. Some dont get the meaning of No… they move on to the next, dont they https://t.co/eMnO6Y3PNX
— Harinder Baweja (@shammybaweja) October 8, 2018
Also read: #MeToo Exposes The Dark And Ugly Side Of Powerful Men In The Film Industry
Prerna Singh Bindra also shared how things got nasty for her after she refused to go to Akbar’s hotel room to ‘discuss work’. She further added how Akbar used to make lewd comments.
He was this brilliant,flamboyant #editor who dabbled in politics, who called me-my 1st job- to his hotel room to 'discuss work', after i put the edition to bed-read midnight, & made life at work hell when i refused.,cudnt speak up due to various compulsions, but yes #MeTooIndia
— prerna singh bindra (@prernabindra) October 6, 2018
Journalist and author Shuma Raha said that she was called for an interview with Akbar for a job at a newspaper publication in 1995. She wrote, “In this case, #MeToo. Year: 1995, Place Taj Bengal, Kolkata. After that encounter, I declined the job offer. I must clarify, however, that he didn’t actually “do” anything. But the whole experience of an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink that evening, was rattling and deeply uncomfortable.”
I must clarify, however, that he didn't actually "do" anything. But the whole experience of an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink that evening, was rattling and deeply uncomfortable.
— Shuma Raha (@ShumaRaha) October 8, 2018
Journalist Saba Naqvi shared her account in DailyO without actually naming Akbar. Later she confirmed that the editor in question in her account was Akbar. She shared, “Akbar often called me to his office, he also landed at my apartment once.”
Shutapa Paul shared her ordeal as a journalist in India Today 8 years ago where MJ Akbar was her boss. She shared about how MJ Akbar not only made her uncomfortable and told her “how journalists working together often ‘grew close’ and things could happen between them and how she should accompany him on his foreign visits“. At multiple occasions, she refused MJ’s overtures resulting in ill-treatment and traumatic work experience.
#MJAkbar forced me to have at least one drink. He stared, stayed quiet, while I told him about all the stories that I planned to get done in the next few months. I had lots and lots of ideas and I hoped he would approve of them. But he did not want to talk about story ideas. 9/n
— Shutapa Paul (@ShutapaPaul) October 10, 2018
Renowned journalist and author Ghazala Wahab wrote a horrific and brave account in The Wire.in stating how Akbar sexually and mentally abused her for months at Asian Age office in 1997 when Ghazala was a young journalist working under him. “Every time he called me in his cabin, I died a thousand times”, wrote Ghazala.
Kadambari M Wade shared her ordeal on her Twitter account of how Akbar made her uncomfortable. She recalled how she told Akbar to look at her face instead of her chest while talking to her.
(4/7) Mr. Akbar continued making me feel very uncomfortable till shortly thereafter, I fled. I came out & told Bobilli Vijay Kumar, my sports editor, but he laughed and said, “that’s just Akbar, don’t worry. He’s like that with everyone.” It happened again though. @priyaramani
— Ka Wade (@KadambariM) October 10, 2018
(6/7) I’d had enough. I’d told my dad. He was prepared to come and confront MJ Akbar. I said I’d fight my own battles. So I said, “Sir, I’d much prefer if you’d look at my face instead of my chest when you’re talking to me.” He looked up. I told my colleagues. @priyaramani
— Ka Wade (@KadambariM) October 10, 2018
Malini Bhupta, who was the deputy editor of India Today, wrote how Akbar used various tactics to “abuse and destroy you professionally, so you grovel”.
She further wrote, “Men like him are vermin… In 2010, I went on leave for three months after verbal abuse and intimidation. I then quit. Petty man wanted to sack me, and then refused to give a release letter.”
@mjakbar Men like him are vermin. You wrote a lot. I didn’t even bother because he wasn’t even worth my words or time. In 2010 I went on leave for 3 months after verbal abuse & intimidation. I then quit. Petty man wanted to sack me and then refused to give release letter
— Malini (@malinibhupta) October 10, 2018
I wasn’t junior & he made my life hell. I was Deputy Editor India Today. His tactic is to abuse & destroy you professionally so you grovel. I didn’t relent so he wanted to sack me but Mr Purie didn’t allow it. I quit in Jan 2011. It is abuse of power. #MeToo #SackMJAkbar
— Malini (@malinibhupta) October 10, 2018
Anju Bharti shared her experience on Twitter and has since deleted her account.
Suparna Sharma, who is currently the resident editor of The Asian Age, Delhi shared “Akbar plucked my bra strap and said something that I don’t remember now.”
During my one month internship in 2009 & later 1-year stint as senior sub in 2017, I realized everyone had a story to tell about #MJAkbar. If women faced sexual harrasment, men were subjected to extreme humiliation.
Today, @SuparnaSharma ma'am tells her story.#MeToo #TimesUp pic.twitter.com/YP1seIDB9K
— Pratyush Patra ? (@KalamWalaBae) October 10, 2018
Journalist Kanika Gahlaut, who worked with Akbar between 1995 and 1997, says she was forewarned of his “glad eye” and that he “did it to everyone”.
Majlie de Puy Kamp came on record and told HuffPost India how she was sexually harassed by Akbar in 2007 when she was an 18 year old intern at The Asian Age. She alleged that a 56 year old Akbar shoved his tongue down her throat. Puy Kamp recalled, “He grabbed me right under my shoulders, on my arms, and pulled me in and kissed me on my mouth and forced his tongue into my mouth, and I just stood there.”
HuffPost India corroborated de Puy Kamp’s account – which has not been written about before – by reviewing emails between de Puy Kamp’s father and Akbar, and in interviews with three people who spoke to her immediately after her ordeal.
In the emails, Akbar wrote, “These are issues which are so prone to misunderstanding, that there is no point debating them. My profoundest apologies if there was anything inappropriate.”
Ruth David, a London based Bloomberg journalist shared her ordeal of sexual harassment as a teenage intern under MJ Akbar where she accused Akbar of trying to forcibly kiss her.
MJ Akbar filed criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani in a Delhi court. Out of all the women who have put allegations on Akbar, she is the only woman against whom Akbar has filed case.
Tushita Paul, wrote in Scroll, how Akbar once invited her over and opened the door in his underwear.
She further recalled, “When I reached your room, you were sullen, sitting there drinking tea and in a vile mood. You started yelling at me about being late, about my work. I was trying to mumble some words. Suddenly you got up, grabbed me and kissed me hard – your stale tea breath and your bristly moustache are still etched in the recesses of my memory.”
He allegedly did the same thing again, the next morning. ‘“Where did you disappear? I’ve been looking for you – we have to discuss your page’ And with that you ushered me into the empty conference room, grabbed me again and kissed me,” she added.
Also read: Did Tanushree Dutta Kickstart The Long Overdue #TimesUp Movement In Bollywood?
Entrepreneur Swati Gautam claimed in an article in The Quint, that she met him in his hotel room dressed only in his bathrobe when she was a student in Kolkata and went to invite him as a guest speaker for an event.
The demand for Akbar’s resignation was raised from all fronts. Akbar, after constant defiance and denial, finally resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs.
MJ Akbar has been asked to record his statement before the court on October 31. This article will be updated further.