Newsletter Oct 15, 2018




Dismissing the allegations of inappropriate behaviour, sexual harassment, and molestation against him as “false and fabricated”, Union Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar Sunday said he would take “appropriate legal action” against his accusers.

Over the past week, more than 10 senior women journalists — many of them Akbar’s former colleagues — have come out with specific allegations against him.

Akbar, who returned to the country Sunday after an official tour lasting several days, said in a statement that the “allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice”, and asked: “Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda? You be the judge.”

The accusations of sexual harassment against Akbar are from the time he was an editor. The reason “why no one went to the authorities for so long” regarding the allegations was “because I had done nothing”, Akbar said. “Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections”, he said, and claimed that the “false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill”.

The flood of allegations began with Priya Ramani, who said on Twitter on October 8 that an article she had written last year about an editor (then unnamed) inviting her to his hotel room for a job interview and asking her to sit on the bed with him, was Akbar. Ramani, formerly of India Today, The Indian Express, and Mint, went on to join Akbar’s team at the Asian Age. Several other women journalists who had worked with Akbar followed with similar accounts.

Akbar countered many of these specific allegations in his statement Sunday. He said that Ramani “began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article” but had not named him earlier “as she knew it was an incorrect story”. He recalled that when Ramani was recently asked “why she had not named me”, she had tweeted: “Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything.”

So, if he hadn’t done anything, “where and what is the story?” Akbar asked, and added: “However, a sea of innuendo, speculation and abusive diatribe has been built around something that never happened”, and some of these allegations were mere “unsubstantiated hearsay”.



 The Congress has accused the Modi government of “recklessly” driving the Indian economy into a crisis which has triggered an alarming level of “pullout” of FIIs from the country, making the rupee the worst-performing Asian currency, besides landing key domestic sectors in deepfreeze.

As part of the Congress unleashing the charge of larger economic mismanagement against the Modi government ahead of key polls to states, former union commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma on Sunday accused the prime minister of leaving every section of society vulnerable and miserable due to “the economic mess” the NDA rule had created.

“This year, until today, $30 billion of FIIs have been pulled out of the country. Banks have been weakened and NPAs have increased more than ₹12 lakh crore. The unemployment crisis has peaked. Medium and small scale enterprises are in tatters. Credit offtake has become the lowest in 18 years. Current account deficit is consistently increasing and exports have declined under the Modi government. There has been a monumental failure in the Indian economy under the Modi regime, which is a matter of grave concern for everyone,” Sharma said at an AICC presser, quoting figures to argue the downslide in all key parameters of the Indian economy ever since the Modi government took over.

Sharma said the prime minister’s and finance minister’s “excuses” for the rupee crash were unacceptable. “How can the PM argue we are the fastest growing economy when the Indian rupee is the worst performing currency in Asia. PM and FM claim the rupee fall is due to global factors. They must answer why the currencies of other countries in Asia have not been affected so badly,” Sharma said.



With only two days left before Sabarimala temple reopens for monthly pujas, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) on Sunday invited stakeholders, including Ayyappa Seva Sangham leaders for a discussion on Tuesday.

TDB’s move comes amid protests by Ayyappa devotees against the SC verdict allowing women to enter the shrine. The invitation for talks comes a day before BJP’s culmination of a protest march, and is being seen as a last-ditch effort by the state government to avoid likely violence between differing groups over the controversy.

Significantly, the thantri family and members of the erstwhile Pandalam royal family refused to attend an earlier meeting with the CM called for the same purpose. They had alleged that the government had already decided on allowing women into the shrine and that the invitation for the meet was just an “eyewash”.

But TDB president A Padmakumar said, “We are not there to change age-old traditions. We want to protect the interests and beliefs of the Sabarimala believers.”

“All issues have to be resolved. The board does not want Sabarimala to be a political issue. So, without any pre-conditions, we will be having talks with the thantri family and others,” Padmakumar added. The TDB chief said the discussion has been convened to ensure a safe and hassle-free pilgrimage season this year. “We will be seeking their opinion on all issues concerned,’’ he said.





Maldives judges on Sunday heard a petition by strongman President Abdulla Yameen to have his recent election defeat annulled, potentially triggering US sanctions and plunging the archipelago into fresh turmoil.

Yameen lost heavily in the September 23 election to a little-known unity opposition candidate, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, despite his main rivals being in jail or in exile and the media in his pocket. Under pressure from the US, Europe and India, which is seeking to counter growing Chinese influence in the strategically positioned 1,200-island honeymoon paradise, Yameen quickly conceded defeat and said he would leave office on November 17.

But even as Western countries breathed a sigh of relief, prisoners were released and opposition figures began returning from exile, Yameen last week filed a request for the Supreme Court to annul the result and call fresh elections.His Progressive Party said the vote was the “most farcical election in living memory” with the organisation “abysmal”, vote-rigging “rampant” and many people unable to cast ballots.

The US on Saturday warned it would react if Yameen, 59, does not go quietly.



President Donald Trump is backing off his claim that climate change is a hoax but says he doesn’t know if it’s manmade and suggests the climate will “change back again.”

In an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” Trump says he doesn’t want to put the U.S. at a disadvantage in responding to climate change.

Trump called climate change a hoax in November 2012 and in years since.

Trump expressed doubt over scientists’ findings linking the changing climate to more powerful hurricanes. He is scheduled on Monday to visit areas of Georgia and Florida damaged by Hurricane Michael.



 Saudi Arabia warned on Sunday that it would retaliate against any sanctions imposed on it over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the Riyadh stock market plunged on growing investor jitters.

From tech tycoons to media giants, a host of Western companies are now distancing themselves from the Gulf state, imperilling Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s much-hyped economic reform drive.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened ally Saudi Arabia on Saturday with “severe punishment” if Mr. Khashoggi, who has been critical of Prince Mohammed, was killed inside its Istanbul mission.

But Riyadh vowed to hit back against any action against it.

“The kingdom affirms its total rejection of any threats or attempts to undermine it, whether through threats to impose economic sanctions or the use of political pressure,” an official source said, quoted by state news agency SPA. He said Riyadh would “respond to any action with a bigger one”, pointing out that the oil superpower “plays an effective and vital role in the world economy”. According to Saudi-owned Al Arabiya channel, the kingdom has “over 30 measures” that it could implement to combat sanctions.

These measures include using sales of oil and arms, exchange of information between Riyadh and Washington, and a possible reconciliation with regional arch-rival Iran, said the report.





Seven Armymen, including a Major General, were sentenced to life imprisonment through a court martial on Saturday in connection with the killings of five civilians associated with a prominent students’ body in 1994 in Assam’s Tinsukia district.

Summary General Court Martial held at Dinjan has pronounced judgment in an encounter case of 1994. The judgment needs to be confirmed by the competent authority and this may take 2-3 months. The judgment is against three officers, and four junior commissioned officers and other ranks..

Five youths — Prabin Sonowal, Pradip Dutta, Debajit Biswas, Akhil Sonowal, Bhaben Moran — were reportedly picked up by the Army on the night of February 18, 1994 and their bodies recovered on February 23 in a forest area. Sonowal was an office bearer of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) while the other four were associated with the outfit.

After their bodies were recovered the next day, the Army claimed that they were extremists.

The case went to the Supreme Court and eventually, a court martial was conducted.



The Congress Sunday opposed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s announcement to soon rename Allahabad as “Prayagraj”.

Claiming that the name change would affect the history in which Allahabad has played a significant role since the days of Independence, Congress spokesperson Onkar Singh said that the region where Kumbh takes place is already called Prayagraj and if the government is so eager, they can make it a separate city, but the name of Allahabad should not be changed.

Singh further said, “During Gandhi-era and fight for independence, Allahabad has been a centre for inspiration. In 1888, 1892 and then in 1910, Congress Mahaadhiveshans took place here, which gave shape to the freedom movement. The city gave the country its first Prime Minister. Moreover, the Allahabad University would lose its identity as it would also be named Prayagraj University.”

BJP, on the other hand, welcomed the announcement and congratulated the Chief Minister for removing “Akbar ki Nishani” and giving the city its “age-old identity” as Prayagraj. BJP state spokesperson Manoj Mishra said, “The announcement which has come keeping in mind the sentiments of lakhs and crores of people of the state is welcome.”

During a visit to Allahabad on Saturday, Adityanath had announced that the city’s name would soon be changed to “Prayagraj”. He had also said that he had got the Governor’s approval for the move.



An emergency action plan will be implemented in Delhi from today to combat air pollution that has begun to show a trend towards poor category, the Central Pollution Control Board said.

Under the emergency plan called Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), stringent actions are implemented based on the air quality of the city.

If the air quality lies in moderate to poor category, measures like stopping garbage burning in landfills and other places, and enforcing all pollution control regulations in brick kilns and industries would be implemented, an official said.

If the air quality falls in the very poor category, additional measures of stopping use of diesel generator sets, enhancing parking fees 3-4 times and increasing frequency of metro and buses would be implemented, he added.

If the air quality falls in the severe category, additional measures would be implemented of increasing frequency of mechanised cleaning of roads, sprinkling of water on roads and identifying road stretches with high dust generation.  If the air quality falls to severe plus emergency category, then measures like stopping entry of trucks into Delhi (except essential commodities), stopping construction activities and appointment of task force to take decision on any additional steps, including shutting of schools, are implemented.

The measures depending upon the air quality will be implemented from Monday.



The wife of an additional district and sessions judge, who sustained injuries after she and her son were shot at by a police head constable posted as the judge’s personal security officer, died on the intervening night of Saturday and Sunday. The mother and son were shot by the constable when he was accompanying them on a shopping trip. The incident took place around 3 pm on Saturday at Arcadia market in Sector 49. Ritu (37) and her son Dhruv (18) were returning to the vehicle after shopping when the accused allegedly opened fire.

Police said the accused, head constable Mahipal (32), was produced in court on Sunday afternoon and remanded in four-day police custody. He had been the judge’s personal security officer for the last one-and-a-half years.

Police claimed they are still struggling to ascertain the motive behind the incident, with the head of the SIT refuting rumours that the constable had been “ill-treated” by the judge’s family.

“No reason for the violence has been ascertained yet. The accused admitted that he had not slept for three-four days as he was worried, but has not revealed the reason. We have not found any medical history to show he is mentally unstable either. We have searched his home, but have not found any medication,” said SIT head DCP Sulochana Gajraj. “He has not made any claims of being ill-treated by the judge or his family, and has never requested for a transfer from his current duties either. We have also not found any prior records of misconduct yet,” she added.

In the FIR registered at Sector 50 police station, Additional District and Sessions Judge Krishan Kant Sharma said he was informed of the incident by the accused, who called him up after fleeing the crime spot.



Hours after Union minister M J Akbar rejected allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment and suggested they may have been guided by political motives, five of the women journalists who accused him said they stood by their statements.

Suparna Sharma, Resident Editor, The Asian Age, said, “I stand by my testimony of the two incidents — one in which he plucked my bra strap, and the other when he stared at my breasts. I also stand by the fact that he did the same with other women in the office. I am disappointed with Akbar’s response but I am not surprised. This is going to be a longish battle, and the next step in many cases is a legal step.”

Responding to Akbar’s question, “Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election? Is there an agenda?”, New York-based journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp (30), said: “I am not a citizen, I cannot vote. I do not have a political agenda. Plus, I have a paper trail. My father wrote an email to Akbar about the incident to which he responded. I have evidence. I am disappointed but not surprised by his statement. I am, however, very comfortable with my story.”

Puy Kamp has accused Akbar of forcibly kissing her when she was interning at The Asian Age in 2007.

Priya Ramani said: “Akbar has decided to brazen it out. There is no conspiracy against Akbar, none of us — unlike him — have any political ambitions. We are speaking up at great cost to our personal and professional lives.” Ramani also said, “The truth is the best defence in any defamation case. I’m not worried.”

Freelance journalist Kanika Gahlaut, who worked with Akbar from 1995 to 1997, too said, “I stand by whatever I said.” She said she wasn’t sure “if everyone got hit (on)”, but “I certainly did, and my friend did”.

Shutapa Paul, who had tweeted about her experience with Akbar on October 10, said that she will “not be intimidated by my tormentor and cower down”. She said: “I am shocked and dismayed. M J Akbar’s brazen shaming of all of us is evidence of his sense of entitlement and power. Our fight is the fight for every woman; a fight for justice, a fight against feeling violated in the workplace and in daily life.”

Meanwhile, documentary filmmaker Nishtha Jain Sunday levelled allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against journalist Vinod Dua. In a post on Facebook, Jain (53) alleged that Dua, in separate incidents, told a “lewd joke”, was once “slobbering all over” her face and was “stalking” her. The incidents go back some 26 years.



India thumped West Indies by 10 wickets inside three days to complete a 2-0 series sweep after Umesh Yadav’s stellar bowling effort set up their comprehensive victory in the and second and final Test.

West Indies skipper Jason Holder’s 5/56 limited India’s first-innings lead to 56 in the morning, but their abject second-innings batting left the hosts needing only 72 to win. Openers Prithvi Shaw and Lokesh Rahul, both of whom remained unbeaten on 33 each, completed the formalities in 16.1 overs to inflict on West Indies their second successive defeat inside three days.

Umesh Yadav claimed 4/45 to become only the third Indian paceman after Kapil Dev and Javagal Srinath to claim 10 wickets in a home Test.

Scores: West Indies 311 & 127, India 327 & 75/0

Umaesh yadabv was name Man Of the Match while Prithvi Shaw was name Man Of the Series.

The two teams next meet in the first of the 5 ODI series, in Guwahati on 21/Oct.



 Middle age is when you’ve met so many people that every new person you meet reminds you of someone else. – Ogden Nash



At a posh Manhattan dinner party, a Latin American visitor was telling the guests about this home country and himself. As he concluded, he said, “And I have a charming and understanding wife but, alas, no children.”

As his listeners appeared to be waiting for him to continue, he said, haltingly, “You see, my wife is unbearable.”

Puzzled glances prompted him to try to clarify the matter: “What I mean is, my wife is inconceivable.”

As his companions seemed amused, he floundered deeper into the intricacies of the English language, explaining triumphantly, “That is, my wife, she is impregnable!”

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