A booklet distributed at the 15th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas event in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh has sparked controversy after it featured the photograph of former union minister MJ Akbar who has been accused of sexual misconduct. The booklet titled Unprecedented Outreach Unparalleled Outcomes, which was distributed to foreign delegates, also features the photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, MoS external affairs Dr VK Singh.
Akbar, a veteran journalist, was appointed as the minister of state for external affairs in July 2016. However, when the MeToo movement gained momentum last year, at least twenty women journalists accused him of sexual misconduct. After heavy public outrage, he was forced to quit from his post in October last year. But Akbar has categorically denied all the allegations levelled against him.
The booklet highlights the achievements of the Ministry of External Affairs in the last four years and all the ministers in the MEA featured in it. “The booklet was published months before Akbar quit as a minister. An unnecessary controversy is being created which is very unfortunate. The booklet only mentions achievements of the ministry,” an MEA official told PTI.
But the presence of MJ Akbar’s photograph on the booklet has not gone down well with many. Many women journalists and politicians slammed it on social media:
— Madhu Goud Yaskhi (@MYaskhi) January 21, 2019
Featuring the #MeToo accused as a star? Hasn’t he resigned?
— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) January 21, 2019
— Faye DSouza (@fayedsouza) January 21, 2019
Hmm. So MJ Akbar returns to take pride of place – with PM and EAM @SushmaSwaraj in photo book given to all attendees at Pravasi Bharat Divas. Is #MeToo forgiven and forgotten by BJP? Not how the women in BJP and larger Sangh I’ve spoken to feel. So how do organisers explain this pic.twitter.com/K2se0CdhGQ
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) January 21, 2019
— Aarti (@aartic02) January 22, 2019
Yes! The first from the left adorning the cover of the book, distributed to the participants in Pravasi Bharathiya Diwas event in Varanasi, is MJ Akbar. The arrogant BJP couldn’t care less that he had to resign on an upsurge of indignation against him on #MeToo revelations. pic.twitter.com/VRt7jpDFBu
— Pawan Kumar Bansal (@pawanbansal_chd) January 21, 2019
Meanwhile, a Delhi court reserved for January 29 its order on whether to summon journalist Priya Ramani as an accused in a defamation case filed by former Union minister M J Akbar. Ramani was one of the first women journalists who accused him of sexual misconduct on social media.
(With inputs from PTI)