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#MeToo Sacking MJ Akbar Not Enough: Media Must Question Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Modi & Amit Shah

Why has nobody questioned the two people directly responsible for Akbar’s appointment?

The dramatic fall of MJ Akbar, the Minister of State for External Affairs, is a big moment for India’s MeToo movement. While the credit goes to the brave women that spoke up, the media – which now includes women in senior roles – played a supportive role. The questioning of Sushma Swaraj, the Union Minister of External Affairs, about her colleague was one such example.

Swaraj refused to answer the questions, and here, though the cowardice of the media was also revealed, because what would Swaraj answer? She did not induct Akbar into her party, or appoint him to his position. By all accounts she – or any other minister – does not even have the power to appoint even their own personal secretaries. That power is entrusted to only two people, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the President of the BJP, Amit Shah – or as the police of Gujarat apparently called them – “safed dhadi” and “kali dhadi”.

What particular use is to confront Swaraj, or the other woman minister in the Union cabinet, Nirmala Sitharaman, when they have no real power? Why has nobody questioned the two people directly responsible for Akbar’s appointment?

And here the question becomes a bit more explicit, because although the rumours of Akbar’s crass behaviour have been common knowledge in the whisper network of Delhi’s journalists, the big case of sexual harassment that was well documented and known to all, is Modi’s and Shah’s, and the media is just not willing to go there.

In 2013 the websites and Cobrapost released CD’s of Amit Shah – the minister of state of home affairs in Gujarat – and two police officials directing the surveillance of a young woman architect in 2009, for the benefit of, allegedly, “safed dhadi”. The tremendous abuse of power in an older man obsessed with a much younger woman is a horrific example of how far a frustrated uncle will go to stalk a woman, and is a classic example of sexual harassment. And yet, where is the hope of MeToo in this? The father of the woman in question was constrained to file an appeal to the courts to quash proceedings because the surveillance was for the “woman’s safety”!

The people responsible now occupy the highest offices in the land, one of the police officials involved in managing the case is one of the highest ranked officers in the CBI, and the media, of course, has no voice with which to question Modi or Shah.

But then this is par for the course. After all, was not this the same party that appointed a rape accused, Nihal Chand, as a Union Minister? Was it not the same party that either stood by the accused in the horrific cases of murder and rape in Kathua and Unnao, or spoke only when it was forced to after the Congress finally took a stand? And is it not a party in the complete control of Modi and Shah – those two who the media will never have the courage to point a finger at?

The fall of Akbar is a good thing, but it is merely window dressing of a government of the abusers, by the abusers, for the abusers, whose poster boy for harassment is none other than Bal Narendra himself.

Omair Ahmad is an author. His last novel, Jimmy the Terrorist, was shortlisted for the Man Asian Literary Prize, and won the Crossword Award. His last book was a political history of Bhutan and the eastern Himalayan region. He is concurrently the Managing Editor, South Asia, at The Third Pole. You can find him on twitter at @omairtahmad.

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