Union Minister MJ Akbar's decision to resign from his post in the face of rising allegations of sexual harassment against him found widespread approval on social media today, with many women journalists -- including Priya Ramani, who was the first to accuse the editor-turned-politician -- stating that it vindicated the charges they had levelled against him. They, however, insisted that their fight was far from over.
"As women, we feel vindicated by MJ Akbar's resignation. I look forward to the day when I also get justice in court," tweeted Ms Ramani, who has been named in a defamation case, soon after the Minister made the announcement.
Incidentally, even cabinet colleague Ramdas Athawale termed Mr Akbar's move as the right one. "The opposition was asking him to resign on moral grounds, and he took the right decision. The allegations against him (Akbar) should be properly investigated," he said. Actor-turned-politician Khushbu Sundar, Journalist Saba Naqvi and Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi Marlena were among other public figures who hailed the development as a victory of womankind over "sexual predators".
Journalist Priya Ramani virtually opened a can of worms earlier this month when she first accused Mr Akbar, formerly a major figure in India's media circles, of sexually exploiting women under his tutelage. When more women came forward to accuse him of similar offences, the Minister denied the allegations and filed a defamation case against Ms Ramani. But the controversy, a part of India's #MeToo movement that was first sparked off when actor Tanushree Dutta accused fellow-artiste Nana Patekar of sexually harassing her ten years ago, refused to die down. Soon, more allegations cropped up against Mr Akbar.
Former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Menon Rao also expressed happiness over the Minister's decision. "So glad that Minister MJ Akbar has resigned his post. His continuation was untenable and indefensible. A big shoutout to all the brave women journalists who called him out for his alleged, sickening and exploitative behaviour towards them," she tweeted.
Ms Sundar, a Congress spokesperson, hailed the Minister's resignation but insisted that he also relinquish his seat in the Upper House. "Finally @mjakbar resigns... one can be an allegation but not all... kudos to the bravehearts who have stood up for the right, silencing the wrong. @priyaramani and all the other women who have stood their ground... this is your victory... Now shouldn't #MJAkbar give up his #RS seat too?" she tweeted.
Ms Naqvi, for her part, compared the resignation of Mr Akbar with a religious event concerning the Goddess Durga. "On #MahaAshtami, Devi Durga slays the demon... #MJAkbar gone..." she commented on the social networking website.
Journalist Suparna Sharma, who had accused Mr Akbar of having "plucked my bra strap", said the fight will not end with his resignation. "Akbar should have resigned immediately after returning to India instead of issuing a statement (denying the allegations)," she said. "When he issued the statement, it seemed as if it was government versus Priya Ramani. Now that he has resigned, it is Akbar vs Priya Ramani."
"We don't know who is backing and supporting him, but I am happy and glad that he has stepped down. The longer he fights this battle against Ramani, more women will come out," she said, insisting that Mr Akbar withdraw the defamation case.
Journalist Harinder Baweja wondered if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would now "break their silence" on the #MeToo allegations. "Akbar should have done it (resigned) much earlier. Staying on reeked of a sense of entitlement. As a next step, MJ Akbar should withdraw the defamation suit unless he wants to continue defaming himself," she tweeted.
National Commission for Women chief Rekha Sharma also welcomed Mr Akbar's decision. "It definitely took some time coming because some inquiry must be going on, but finally they took the decision and that is what matters. I welcome this decision as I was looking forward to it," news agency ANI quoted her as saying.
(With inputs from ANI and IANS)