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‘Liberals’ get #MeToo accused MJ Akbar off speaker list from Jaipur Lit Fest but Festival Director who is also #MeToo accused stays

Griffin had posted the screenshot of the 'speaker bio' page of MJ Akbar. He remarked, "I see many lovely people I know on the JLF list. I know it is a fabulous platform for writers. But I wonder what they think about appearing in the same list."

Veteran journalist and former BJP Minister MJ Akbar was recently removed from the speaker’s list at the virtual edition of Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF), over ‘unproven’ accusations of MeToo levelled against him in 2018. JLF 2022 is scheduled to be held virtually between March 5 and March 14 this year.

The development came at the backdrop of ‘liberal outrage’ on social media, prompting the organisers of JLF to take such stringent action. The controversy, over the selection of MJ Akbar as a speaker, began after ‘journalist’ Peter Griffin posted about it on Twitter.

In a tweet on Saturday (March 5), he wrote, “Look at who is on the JLF speaker list.” Griffin had posted the screenshot of the ‘speaker bio’ page of MJ Akbar. He remarked, “I see many lovely people I know on the JLF list. I know it is a fabulous platform for writers. But I wonder what they think about appearing in the same list.”

Screengrab of the tweet by Peter Griffin

Liberals demand removal of MJ Akbar as JLF speaker

Following his tweet, liberals demanded the de-platforming of journalist MJ Akbar from the virtual event of Jaipur Literature Festival 2022.

‘Writer’ Sandhya tweeted, “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.”

Screengrab of the tweet by Sandhya

“What compulsions the @JaipurLitFest has to invite MJ Akbar?? It’s an affront to women,” tweeted author Mini Nair.

Screengrab of the tweet by Mini Nair

Urdu language professor Pasha Khan accused the organisers of the Jaipur Literature Festival of harbouring rapists and alleged sexual predators. “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,” he alleged.

Screengrab of the tweet by Pasha Khan

“Do you really need the Twitterati to constantly remind you not to platform MJ Akbar, CP Surendran or the many harassers against whom women have come out on record? I think not,” wrote another ‘author’ Kavitha Rao.

Screengrab of the tweet by Kavitha Rao

Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University Christine Marrewa, claimed that the acclaimed Jaipur Literature Festival has a ‘tradition’ of providing a platform to sexual predators to ‘reform their image’. She tweeted, “The only real excuse one may still have for participating in this event is that they lack any integrity.”

Screengrab of the tweet by Christine Marrewa

CNN News18 anchor Ridhima Bhatnagar alleged that inviting MJ Akbar as a speaker at the Jaipur Literature Festival was a ‘mockery’ of justice.

Screengrab of the tweet Ridhima Bhatnagar

Jaipur Literature Festival remove page featuring MJ Akbar as ‘speaker’

Liberals on social media were successful in exercising their veto power. ‘Journalist’ Peter Griffin, who had started the controversy, informed that the name of the former Minister was removed from the list of speakers at the virtual event.

“There were 434 names when I last looked. I guess it comes down to whether that list becomes 433 quickly, or a much smaller number…And so, that page has been removed, as has item 46 in the schedule,” he informed.

Screengrab of the tweets

MeToo movement and liberal immunity to William Dalrymple

Interestingly, the website of Jaipur Literature Festival features ‘author’ William Dalrymple as one of its founders and co-Director. This is despite the fact that he has been accused of sexually predatory behaviour by multiple women.

In October 2018, Scroll employee Karnika Kohli put out a cryptic tweet asking whether everyone will remain silent over William Dalrymple. Women who felt uncomfortable around him or while talking to him over the social media platforms took the hint, and a few came forward to tell their stories.

The most detailed version of his behaviour towards young women was posted by one Preetha. She said that he sent her a random friend request on Facebook, which, as his fan, she did not find alarming. However, he started to compliment her a lot which made her feel uncomfortable.

He also asked her out for dinner and drinks. When she told him she would think about going out for dinner with him, “he replied with many winks and kiss smileys,” she said. She said that she should have snapped when he randomly asked her for dinner and called him out for being creepy.

To her post, many people said that it should have been taken as normal as it is not wrong for someone to ask a woman out for dinner or drinks that forced Preetha to write a long note. She said, “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.”

Screengrab of the author profile of William Dalrymple

She further added that refusing to admit his actions are not similar to the actions of a new male colleague as a new colleague will have a reason to know her better than William did not have. After telling him that she was his fan, his actions felt like “he is exerting his power, unlike the colleague.”

Another user MissKandpal concurred what Preetha had to say. She said she was asked to meet over dinner as well. Author and political analyst Shubhrastha also pointed out unsolicited messages from Dalrymple and said her cold reply might have saved her from such dinner requests.

In October 2018, multiple women took to social media platforms and called out their sexual predators across industries like media, advertising, academia, the film industry and even the comedy circuit which prides itself in being the ‘liberal’ voice of India. While MJ Akbar has been de-platformed, liberals ensured that William Dalrymple continues to remain the co-Director of JLF. This is despite the multiple allegations of #MeToo against him.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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