M. J. Akbar

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M.J Akbar
M. J. Akbar cropped.JPG
Akbar speaking at the Halifax International Security Forum 2014
Born (1951-01-11) 11 January 1951 (age 68)
NationalityIndian
Occupation
  • Journalist
  • Politician
  • Writer
Political partyIndian National Congress (1989–2014) Bharatiya Janata Party(2014–present)

Mobashar Jawed "M.J." Akbar (born 11 January 1951) is an Indian politician,[1] who served as the Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs until 17 October, 2018 when he had to step down due to a number of sexual harassment allegations against him from numerous women who had worked with him over the years,[2] and rape by NPR business editor Pallavi Gogoi. He is a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha,[3] from He was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers by PM Narendra Modi on 5 July 2016. He is also a veteran Indian journalist and author of several books. He first served as an elected Member of Parliament between 1989 and 1991, and returned to public life in March 2014, when he joined the BJP and was appointed national spokesperson during the 2014 general elections that brought the party back to office with a simple majority under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi. In July, 2015 he was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand. During his long career in journalism, he launched, as editor, India’s first weekly political news periodicals in India including India Today, Headlines Today, The Telegraph, The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle',' among others.

He has written several non-fiction books, including a biography of Jawaharlal Nehru titled Nehru: The Making of India, a book on Kashmir titled Kashmir Behind the Vale, Riot After Riot and India: The Siege Within. He also authored The Shade of Swords, a history of jihad. Akbar has also authored fiction, such as Blood Brothers-A Family Saga (Fratelli Di Sangue, Italian translated version). Have Pen, Will Travel: Observations of a Globetrotter is a travelogue authored by him. His book 'Byline' consists of write-ups of bylines picked from his writings. His book Tinderbox: The past and future of Pakistan, in January 2012 discusses the themes of identity crisis and class struggles in Pakistan.[citation needed]

In an op-ed in Washington Post on Nov 2, 2018,[4] Pallavi Gogoi, the chief business editor for NPR in the United States, wrote of her rape by Mr. Akbar 23 years ago in a hotel room in Jaipur. Ms. Gogoi was the editor of the op-ed page of the Asian Age at that time. In response, Mr. Akbar has admitted to a past relationship with Ms. Gogoi, and said it was consensual.[5]

Career[edit]

Akbar joined The Times of India in 1971 as a trainee. Subsequently, he moved to The Illustrated Weekly of India, then India's largest-selling magazine, working as a sub-editor as well as distinguishing himself as a feature writer capable of contributing a prolific number of stories. He would remain with the weekly until 1973 when he was named editor of the news fortnightly, Onlooker, owned by The Free Press Journal Group in Mumbai. In 1976, he moved to Calcutta to join the Ananda Bazar Patrika (ABP) Group as editor of Sunday, a political weekly.[6] Within just three years of its launch, the investigative reporting pioneered by the magazine established its national circulation and number one position. The magazine took an uncompromising stand against the Emergency and fought press censorship and dictatorship. Sunday not only established major trends in journalism but also spawned a new generation of journalists in the country.

In 1982, after the success of The Sunday, Akbar launched what is considered by some to be India's first modern newspaper. He conceived, designed and edited the daily newspaper, The Telegraph.

In 1989, he took a brief detour into politics with his election to the Indian Parliament in November 1989 from Kishanganj in Bihar on a Congress(I) ticket.[7] He lost the seat in the 1991 Lok Sabha elections.[8][9] He served as late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's official spokesman.[10]

In 1991, Akbar joined the Government as an adviser in the Ministry of Human Resources, and helped policy planning in key areas of education, the National Literacy Mission and in the protection of heritage. He resigned from the post and quit politics in December 1992, returning to journalism and full-time writing. In 1993, Akbar started a new media company with the aim of creating India's first newspaper that would not only include an international focus within its editorial range, but also be the first Indian daily with an international edition. This newspaper appeared in February 1994. The Asian Age was launched with initial editions in Delhi, Bombay, and London, and by 2008 had grown, in collaboration with the Deccan Chronicle, to eight editions, into a major media presence nationally and internationally. In 2004, the group began publishing The International Herald Tribune in India, and became a publishing partner of The New York Times.[11] Akbar was also the editor-in-chief of The Deccan Chronicle, a Hyderabad-based news daily.

In 2005, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia appointed him as a member of the committee to draft a ten-year charter for Muslim nations on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.[12]

In March 2006, Akbar joined the Brookings Institution, Washington, as a Visiting Fellow in the Brookings Project on U.S. Policy Towards the Islamic World. During the late 90s, he diluted his stake in the Asian Age, eventually selling off a major part of it to the Reddys, the owners of the Deccan Chronicle Group.

In March 2008, Akbar was removed from The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle due to differences with the owners over editorial policy, as some newspapers have reported it.

Akbar launched the fortnightly political magazine Covert on 13 May 2008 in Delhi with the first issue on stands on 14 May. Simultaneously, the Covert website[13] was launched two days later though it was ultimately discontinued.

Akbar launched a new Sunday newspaper from 31 January 2010, The Sunday Guardian, published from New Delhi and Chandigarh besides an edition called India on Sunday from London.[14] He remained the Editor-in-Chief and then Editorial Director there until May 2014, when he resigned to join politics full-time.

In the meanwhile, in September 2010, he joined the Living Media as Editorial Director of the leading weekly English news magazine India Today and the English news channel Headlines Today. He left in October 2012.

#MeToo Controversy[edit]

In October 2018, Akbar was accused of sexual harassment by several female colleagues through the 'Me Too' Movement in India.[15][16][17][18][19] He was accused of sexual harassment by journalist Priya Ramani,  UK-based journalist Ruth David, CNN scribe Majlie de Puy Kamp, journalist and author Ghazala Wahab,journalist Sutapa Paul, and journalist Suparna Sharma, amongst others.

On 14 October 2018, he made an official statement saying that he found the allegations against him as "wild and baseless" and that he planned to take legal recourse against the women who accused him.[20] However, the accusations are by a multitude of women, across time and locations. As of 17 October, the count of accusations stood at 20: all of the women signed a petition to the court where Akbar's defamation case is to be heard, asking that they too, be heard.[21] Following this, Akbar resigned from his post on 17 October 2018.[2][22]

On 2 November 2018 journalist Pallavi Gogoi alleged that he raped her 23 years ago.[23]

Politics[edit]

Akbar was a Congress MP from Kishanganj in Bihar between 1989 and 1991, he was also a Congress party spokesperson in 1989.[24]

Akbar joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in March 2014 as the national spokesperson of the party.[24][25][26]

He was elected to Rajya Sabha from Jharkhand in July 2015.[24][27][28]

He took oath as Minister of State for External Affairs in Rashtrapati Bhavan on 5 July 2016.[24][29] He resigned from his post on 17 October 2018, after a growing number of sexual allegations were made against him.[2]

Personal life[edit]

Akbar is married to Mallika Joseph, his contemporary at The Times of India. They have two children, Prayaag an alumnus of Dartmouth College[30] and Mukulika a Law graduate from Jesus College, Cambridge.[31][32]

Books[edit]

  • Nehru : the Making of India (1990)[24]
  • Riot After Riot (1991)
  • Kashmir: Behind the Vale (1991)
  • India: The Siege within - Challenges to a Nation's Unity (1996)
  • The Shade of Swords: Jihad and the Conflict between Islam and Christianity (2003)
  • Byline (2004)
  • Blood Brothers - A Family Saga (2006)
  • Have Pen, Will Travel (2010)
  • Tinderbox: The Past and Future of Pakistan (2012)
  • A Mirror to Power: The Politics of a Fractured Decade, HarperCollins India, 2015.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Muslim Women Will No Longer Live Under Fear Of Talaq: MJ Akbar".
  2. ^ a b c "MJ Akbar Resigns Over #Metoo Allegations". headlinestoday.org. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  3. ^ "M J Akbar mounts spirited defence of triple talaq bill".
  4. ^ Gogoi, Pallavi (1 November 2018). "As a young journalist in India, I was raped by M.J. Akbar. Here is my story". Washington Post. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  5. ^ "#MeToo: Wife defends MJ Akbar; former minister says 'Pallavi Gogoi was in a consensual relationship' - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  6. ^ Bhandare, Namita (21 May 2011). "70's: The decade of innocence". Hindustan Times. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  7. ^ "Dial-a-divorce against spirit of Islam: M J Akbar".
  8. ^ "KEY HIGHLIGHTS OF GENERAL ELECTIONS, 1989 TO THE NINTH LOK SABHA - Vol I LS 89" (PDF). ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA, NEW DELHI. 1989. Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  9. ^ "Election 1991 results for Kishanganj". ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA, NEW DELHI. 1991. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Another shade of Akbar". The Times of India.
  11. ^ "Biography". M J Akbar. 18 December 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  12. ^ "Profile of M J AKbar". Storylogy. Archived from the original on 20 May 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  13. ^ "[COVERT] Fortnightly Magazine". M. J. Akbar. 17 May 2009. Archived from the original on 17 May 2009. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
  14. ^ "Latest News and In-depth Analysis, Opinion from India & world - SundayGuardianLive". Sunday Guardian.
  15. ^ "#MeToo campaign: Six women speak up, accuse Minister M J Akbar of sexual harassment when he was Editor". The Indian Express. 10 October 2018. Retrieved 10 October 2018.
  16. ^ "Congress' Jaipal Reddy says MJ Akbar must resign if he can't explain sexual harassment charges". Firstpost. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  17. ^ "M.J. Akbar, Minister and Former Editor, Sexually Harassed and Molested Me". The Wire. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  18. ^ Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy; Venugopal, Vasudha (11 October 2018). "MJ Akbar faces #MeToo heat, asked to 'cut short' Nigeria visit, may be back today". The Economic Times. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  19. ^ "#MeToo: Sexual harrassment [sic] charges against MJ Akbar put Modi government in a spot, final call likely soon". The Financial Express. 11 October 2018. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  20. ^ Reuters (14 October 2018). "Indian Minister at Center of #MeToo Case Calls Abuse Accusations 'Wild and Baseless'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  21. ^ "20 Women Journalists Back Priya Ramani, Ready To Testify Against MJ Akbar". NDTV.com.
  22. ^ "central-minister-mj-akbar-resigns-over-sexual-harassment-charges". thenewsminute.com. Retrieved 17 October 2018.
  23. ^ "#MeToo: MJ Akbar raped me, journalist speaks out after years". Yahoo News. 2 November 2018.
  24. ^ a b c d e "Portfolio of Modi government ministers: MJ Akbar appointed MoS External Affairs", The Financial Express, 5 July 2016
  25. ^ "Journalist MJ Akbar joins BJP and praises Modi". Hindustan Times. 22 March 2014.
  26. ^ "BJP appoints MJ Akbar as national spokesperson - The Economic Times on Mobile". M.economictimes.com. 25 March 2014.
  27. ^ "MJ Akbar Wins Rajya Sabha By-Poll from Jharkhand". NDTV.com. 2 July 2015.
  28. ^ "Madhya Pradesh: M J Akbar, Anil Dave enter RS, Congress nominee Tankha wins too". 12 June 2016.
  29. ^ "MJ Akbar - From Congress MP To PM Modi's Minister".
  30. ^ "Alumni 2000".
  31. ^ Sen, Rehana. "Green is the valley". The Hindu.
  32. ^ [1] Archived 6 December 2013 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]