New Delhi: Union Minister MJ Akbar, who arrived in India today morning, released a detailed statement refuting sexual harassment allegations against him raised by over a dozen women journalists.
However, the junior foreign minister did not indicate any decision to step down from his position in the cabinet, contrary to media reports.
"The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice. I could not reply earlier as I was on an official tour abroad," Akbar said.
Akbar further said his lawyers will look into these "wild and baseless" allegations, and questioned why this storm has risen a few months before a general election.
He added, "Lies do not have legs, but they do contain poison, which can be whipped into a frenzy. This is deeply distressing. I will be taking appropriate legal action."
In the lengthy and detailed statement, the minister specifically replied to allegations made by women journalists.
Scribe Priya Ramani's allegations found the first mention; she was the first one to publically accuse Akbar of misconduct.
Speaking about Ramani's allegations in an article for Vogue India, Akbar said, "Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article. She did not, however, name me as she knew it was an incorrect story."
When asked recently why she had not named me, she replied, in a Tweet: "Never named him because he didn't 'do' anything." If I didn't do anything, where and what is the story? There is no story. This was admitted at the very inception," noted the statement.
MJ Akbar also went on to cite other examples in the statement. Akbar said, "Let me note examples. Shutapa Paul states, "The man never laid a hand on me." Shuma Raha says, "I must clarify, however, that he didn't actually 'do' anything". One woman, Anju Bharti, went to the absurd extent of claiming I was partying in a swimming pool. I do not know how to swim."
Calling out journalist Ghazala Wahab's allegations as an 'effort to damage his reputation', Akbar said, "Wahab claimed that she had been molested in office, 21 years ago. This is 16 years before I entered public life, and when I was in the media industry."
Contrary to Wahab's description of Akbar's office, the statement noted that at the said time he had a "tiny cubicle". Akbar went on to say, "The only office where I worked with Ghazala Wahab was that of The Asian Age. A part of the editorial team then worked out of a small hall. At the time concerned, I had a very tiny cubicle, patched together by plywood and glass. Others had tables and chairs two feet away."
"It is utterly bizarre to believe that anything could have happened in that tiny space, and, moreover, that no one else in the vicinity would come to know, in the midst of a working day. These allegations are false, motivated and baseless," added Akbar.
The minister further explained how the women who accused him continued to work as his colleagues after the alleged incidents.
"It is pertinent to remember that both Ms Ramani and Ms Wahab kept working with me even after these alleged incidents; this clearly establishes that they had no apprehension and discomfort. The reason why they remained silent for decades is very apparent: as Ms Ramani has herself stated, I never did anything," said MJ Akbar.
(With inputs from ANI)...