New Delhi, OCT 11:
Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar’s position in the government is untenable, sources on Thursday told ANI, after sexual harassment allegations against the former editor surfaced.
Sources added that something big can be expected soon. The revelation comes after at least seven women accused Akbar of sexually harassing them when he was a newspaper editor.
Akbar, who is travelling outside India, so far has not commented on the allegations. According to an NDTV report, sources stated that Akbar has not been asked to cut short his trip and resign. “These are speculative stories,” the report quoted sources as saying.
Officials said the junior foreign minister is travelling to Equitorial Guinea and is likely to return only on Sunday, the report added.
It also mentioned that Akbar’s version would be heard when he returns and no formal complaint has been lodged so far.
The accusations by women journalists against their former boss have come amidst the raging #MeToo movement in India, which has rattled the country’s media industry.
Sources said that Akbar can be asked to quit the ministry and work for the party instead.
Akbar, a senior journalist, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of 2014 general elections and was elected to the Rajya Sabha a year later. He was made the Minister of State for External Affairs in 2016.
People familiar with the development also told ANI that government is serious about its pro-women image at international forums and thus, cannot afford to have someone with a tainted image representing the country abroad.
Union ministers, including MJ Akbar’s boss, Sushma Swaraj have refused to comment on allegations. Only Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has called for an inquiry.
“There should be an investigation. Men in position of power often do this. This applies to media, politics and seniors working in companies. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously,” Maneka Gandhi told a news channel. In October last year, when the #MeToo campaign reached its peak in Hollywood, journalist Priya Ramani had written an article for Vogue India, titled, “To the Harvey Weinstein of the world” and narrated her ordeal about the gut-wrenching incident of sexual misconduct she faced during a job interview with a renowned journalist who had “transformed Indian journalism”. Ramani, recently on Twitter, claimed that the journalist she was referring to was MJ Akbar.
Another journalist, Shutapa Paul, recalling a 2011 incident, tweeted on Wednesday, “As I tried to dash out the door, #MJAkbar gave me a hard hug, I ducked whatever else could have followed and fled.
He seemed amused at my ducking.”
Paul added that later, when he went to Kolkata, he wanted to meet her late night at his hotel room but she excused out. “The next morning, I woke up to cryptic text messages from #MJAkbar. Paraphrasing them: ‘You should know what’s important to you. Your career or other things’,” claimed Paul.