Journalist and former Union minister MJ Akbar was scheduled to participate as a speaker in the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). His invitation was cancelled after social media outrage.
Journalist and former Union minister MJ Akbar was scheduled to participate as a speaker in the ongoing Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF). But a social media cry started about his presence in JLF. The invitation extended to him was called off. Akbar was accused of sexual harassment by a journalist in 2018.
What raised many eyebrows was that one of the festival directors, William Dalrymple, was accused of sexual harassment by multiple women when the #MeToo wave hit the country. But he has stayed as a festival director.
Communications professional Sandhya wrote on Twitter, “Mr Akbar took a woman to court for talking about sexual harassment at his hands. Effectively trying (to) bully her and others who had the same experience into silence. Now he has a new book out and is a speaker at JLF. @JaipurLitFest tell us why you thought this was okay.”
Accusing the organisers of JLF of harbouring rapists and sexual predators, Urdu language professor Pasha Khan posted on Twitter, “The @JLFLitfest platforming MJ Akbar after he was accused of sexual harassment is the least surprising thing on earth, given that it platformed a rapist last year.”
While the invitation extended to Akbar was rescinded following this social media cry, William Dalrymple faced no such consequence. In fact, no ‘liberal’ made a fuss about it.
In 2018, multiple women had accused William of #MeToo charges. Journalist Karnika Kohli, who was employed with news website Scroll at the time, had accused William of sexual harassment.
Another journalist Preetha had given a very detailed account of how William was sending her creepy messages and was forcing her to go out for dinner and drinks with him.
When many told her on social media that many people ask women to go out with them for drinks and dinner and there was nothing wrong in it, she replied, “It is disheartening not at all shocking that men are questioning my intentions instead of Dalrymple’s in this case although other women have shared that they have heard of/had similar encounters with him.”
William is a ‘respected left liberal’ in Lutyens Delhi. In 2020, he led the protest, forcing publishing house Bloomsbury to withdraw from publishing the book ‘Delhi Riots 2020: The Untold Story by Prerna Malhotra, Monika Arora, Sonali Chitalkar’.
“I’m extremely grateful to @DalrympleWill for his efforts in putting a stop to this shameful bit of state propaganda. It could not have happened without him”, Aatish Taseer had tweeted after Bloomsbury announced it would not publish the book.
After journalist Priya Ramani accused MJ Akbar of sexual harassment, Akbar filed a defamation suit. A trial court acquitted journalist Ramani. On January 13, the Delhi High Court admitted MJ Akbar’s plea challenging the trial court verdict in the criminal defamation suit.
Akbar, who was earlier in the Congress party, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2014. He is a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) representing Madhya Pradesh. He was also Minister of State for External Affairs from 2016 to 18.