Other journalists involved have reiterated their stand after Akbar said their stories were “fabricated.”
Akbar has also questioned the timing of their charges, suggesting that they are part of a political conspiracy against the Bharatiya Janata Party and the government ahead of the general election next April.
Many of the men accused have much to lose. Film personalities and journalists might scramble back, but others could find that more difficult.
Akbar, for example, has built a ministerial career in the BJP, having earlier been a Congress Party MP and launched newspapers that include the Asian Age. Bhagat is one of India’s most popular authors, especially among younger generations, with books that explore ambitions for success in university, love and a career. Seth spends much of his life flying to foreign capitals and his close contacts include Ratan Tata, the veteran Indian industrialist, George Osborne, the former British finance minister, and senior Financial Times editors.
The women however may find it difficult to defend their claims in law because, as several have said, “nothing happened.” Priya Ramani wrote on Twitter that she did not name Akbar when she first wrote about his advances in India’s Vogue magazine a year ago “because he didn’t ‘do’ anything.”
It is unlikely, given the nature of Indian society, that women will be prepared to go public with cases where men were successful in their advances because they would be seen as tainted. Unlike probable reactions in the US and Europe, many husbands and in-laws would not be understanding or sympathetic.
“Most of those who did succumb, will not dare to come forward – there will be too much shame,” said Madhu Trehan, a leading editor, in a television discussion.
She and others are also concerned that women seeking publicity and instant attention – or settling vendettas – will make false and unjustified claims against men, doing harm to their reputations. Akbar’s legal action could have the effect of stemming such false claims as well as more warranted allegations.
A survey by the IndiaSpend media analysis firm has found that registered cases of sexual harassment at Indian workplaces increased by 54 percent from 371 in 2014 to 570 in 2017, according to official data. But as many as 70 percent of women said they did not report sexual harassment by superiors because they feared the repercussions, according to a survey conducted by the Indian Bar Association in 2017
Suhel Seth’s Twitter photo