Crowdfunding, legal support pours in for survivors

Mumbai: First, the 14 survivors outed MJ Akbar, the junior minister in the external affairs ministry, after years of having struggled with the suffering which they reported they were forced to undergo.  Now, they have to contend with the might of a minister who has come down like a sack of coals on a woman of grit, ironically on the birth anniversary of his namesake and one of India’s greatest emperors, Jalaluddin Mohammed Akbar.

Support is pouring in for the survivors from every quarter, online and in person, as they ready to battle the criminal defamation suit filed by the former editor. The Network of Women in Media, India, the Foundation for Media Professionals and the Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists have sent a letter of protest in solidarity with the 14 survivors to the President and Prime Minister.

But first the shocker — 97 lawyers whom Akbar has named on the ‘vakalatnama’ are the same who had fought for Tarun Tejpal, founder of Tehelka. Journalist Vinod K Jose tweeted, “How do serial sexual offenders all have the same legal defence? Tejpal had a partner of Karanjawala and Co (Sandeep Kapoor) defending him. MJ Akbar has gone to Karanjawala himself. K’wala is a friend of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Political might comes to destroy,” said Jose.

However, just as goddess Durga emerged from the pooling of energies of all the gods, women from all quarters have pooled in their energies and resources. The minute the petition was put out, Nidhi Razdan of NDTV expressed shock. “Just read the entire criminal defamation suit filed by MJ Akbar. He has NINETY SEVEN lawyers fighting for him! 97! Against one Priya Ramani, Well, well,” said Razdan. Senior counsel, Indira Jaising responded, saying this was just the beginning, the legal teams only get larger. “Wife and daughters and two senior women partners, included, but you have not seen it all yet, in court it will be senior lawyers, so add to the numbers,” tweeted Jaising.

The court case will surely mean huge expenses for the survivors, and an additional burden. The co-founder of the Money Life Foundation, Sucheta Dalal, suggested crowdfunding. “Hey, Priya Ramani and all the 14 who spoke up. Let’s crowd fund your defence. I am sure many top lawyers will help you fight pro bono, but we at Money Life India know there are lots of expenses involved! So think about it! Happy to support, I am sure thousands of others will too!” said Dalal.

Yet another woman was ready to donate an amount equivalent to her monthly beauty parlour expenditure to the cause of the survivors. Or, “if there is a ‘go-fund-me’ link to pay for Priya Ramani’s legal defence, hook me up. I am ready to pay the entirety of my parlour expenses for the month for her. My message to MJ Akbar, we make money and we are coming for you,” said Aishwarya. Some noted the stoic silence of the government on allowing Akbar to continue in office, and believe this is blatant politicisation of the #MeToo movement. “Not surprised by Akbar/BJP brazening it out. The most consistent thing about Modi-Shah politics is, nobody is made to go under any allegations whatsoever. Those who jumped to announce Akbar resignation should’ve googled Kuldip Singh Sengar, BJP MLA in custody for rape and murder,” said Shekhar Gupta