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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 44 New Delhi October 20, 2018

Oscillating between Hope and Despair

Friday 19 October 2018, by SC


As we go to press news has just come that Minister of State for External Affairs M.J. Akbar—who went on an overdrive on his return to India (following a prolonged trip to Africa) on Sunday (October 14) to attack the women journalists who had levelled serious charges on him of sexual assault, file a defamation case against one of them as he remained completely unconcerned over the scores of women journalists coming out with their sordid experiences of working under the celebrated editor-writer—has eventually tendered his resignation from the Union Council of Minister to, as he explained, fight the case. In his own words, “I deemed it appropriate to step down...“ for that purpose. He had earlier termed the allegations by the women journalists as “false and fabricated“ to turn them into “innuendos”.

This was indeed a positive development welcomed by all who are fighting for the equality and dignity of women at the workplace.

Whether the PM pressurised him or not to step down, the fact is that it signified a resounding victory for the #MeToo movement led by the women scribes.

But the victory is as yet partial. Incidentally, as Samar Halarnkar, the editor of IndiaSpend and husband of Priya Ramani, the journalist against whom Akbar filed the defamation suit, wrote in a piece that has been widely circulated,

“There are men that the women ranged against Akbar reached out to for support, men who witnessed his behaviour at close quarters, but not one of these men has spoken out.”

This too is a revelation, that is, the pusillanimity of the male scribes. Even the Editors Guild of India, which Akbar had once headed as its General Secretary, remained silent. This has not enhanced the stature and prestige of the EGI.

But for now hats of to the women who single-handedly took on the high-profile Minister-cum-editor without any hesitation or ambiguity.

While this development injects hope in the minds of democratic forces of all hues, an unfortunate development in the southern part of the country has caused an intense sense of despair. Today was the day when the Kerala State Government was to implement the Supreme Court verdict on the Sabarimala case, that is, allowing women of all ages to enter the temple’s sanctum sanctorum to offer prayers. That, however, was not possible in the face of mob violence organised by constituents of the Sangh Parivar while the State administration remained by and large passive and did not take precautionary measures to prevent such an eventuality.

The violence that the Hindu extremists opposing the SC verdict resorted to today also resulted in assaults on journalists and members of the media covering the happenings at Sabarimala. This militated against the judgement of the highest court of the land.

Yet the sense of despair that the latest development at Sabarimala conveys cannot dampen the hope generated by the most recent event connected with the #MeToo campaign. This message should go out to all concerned at the earliest.

October 17 S.C.

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