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Vindicated, say women journalists after Akbar quits

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Vindicated, say women journalists after Akbar quits
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New Delhi: Women journalists who hurled allegations of sexual harassment and molestation against former editor M.J. Akbar on Wednesday expressed happiness over his exit as the Minister of State for External Affairs and vowed to continue their fight.

Besides those who levelled the charges against Akbar, government bodies meant to protect women as well as feminist activists too welcomed the move.

Journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first to go public with her accusation against the former editor and is facing a defamation suit filed by Akbar, said she felt "vindicated".

"As women, we feel vindicated by Akbar's resignation. I look forward to the day when I will also get justice in court," Ramani tweeted.

At least 15 journalists have accused Akbar of sexual harassment and molestation. He filed a defamation suit against Ramani alleging that "scandalous allegations" have been made to bring down his image in society.

Journalist Suparna Sharma, who had accused Akbar of having "plucked my bra strap", said the fight was not over with his resignation.

"Akbar should have resigned immediately after returning to India instead of issuing a statement," said Sharma, referring to Akbar's Sunday statement where he had rubbished all the allegations and questioned the motive behind them.

"When he issued the statement, it seemed it was government versus Priya Ramani. Now that he has resigned, it is Akbar vs Priya Ramani," she said and asked the former Minister to withdraw the defamation case against Ramani.

"The longer he fights this battle against Ramani, more women will come out," she said.

Ghazala Wahab, who had accused Akbar of molesting her several times, said his quitting was effect of the #MeToo movement that has witnessed women from across the spectrum coming out with their horror stories of sexual harassment in and outside the work place.

"It was a momentum which was built up and it is one of the effect of that momentum. I think that the momentum does not stop here and it continues. It is a collective victory for all the women," said Wahab, now the Executive Editor of Force magazine.

"Hope the movement carries on and spreads in every part of the country," said Wahab, who had detailed how she was molested and harassed by Akbar on several occasions when she was employed with The Asian Age.

"On #MahaAshtami Devi Durga slays the demon? #MJAkbar gone...." tweeted journalist Saba Naqvi who had called Akbar a "predator".

Journalist Harinder Baweja, who too had accused Akbar, wondered if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj would now "break their silence".

"As a next step, he should withdraw the defamation suit unless Akbar wants to continue defaming himself," Baweja said on twitter.

UK-based journalist Ruth David, who too has levelled charges of sexual harassment against Akbar, said: "I was one of those women and I stand by my story and with those who spoke up. We raise our voices now so others will not experience what we did."

Welcoming Akbar's quitting, National Commission for Women chairperson Rekha Sharma said: "Finally, the government has listened to the voice of women and acted accordingly."

Delhi Commission for Women Chief Swati Maliwal said it was shameful on the part of Akbar to have delayed his quitting.

"The credit for the resignation goes not to the Centre or Akbar but directly to the #MeToo campaign. Especially to those brave women who reported the assault and those women and men who stood by them," she tweeted.

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