As The MeToo movement in India gathers steam, allegations of sexual harassment have surfaced against veteran journalist and Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar.
Union Minister Sushma Swaraj did not respond when she was asked on Monday about any action against the minister.
In a video shot by a journalist, Swaraj can be seen evading questions related to allegations on Akbar, asked by some women journalists.
"There are serious allegations...these are sexual harassment allegations. You are a woman minister in charge. Will there be a probe on the allegations?" journalists can be heard asking in the video. Swaraj, however, walked away without answering.
The former editor was named in a tweet by journalist Priya Ramani, who identified Akbar as the editor she had written about in an article in Vogue in October, 2017.
“I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t “do” anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator—maybe they’ll share,” she said in a tweet.
In her article in Vogue, Ramani described how a newspaper editor had called her for a job interview to a "plush South Mumbai hotel."
“You taught me my first workplace lesson. I was 23, you were 43. I grew up reading your smart opinions and dreamt of being as erudite as you. You were one of my professional heroes. Everyone said you had transformed Indian journalism and I wanted to be on your team. So, we set a time you could interview me at the plush south Mumbai hotel where you always stayed," she wrote in Vogue.
She continues, “I knew you were a busy editor. When I got to the lobby, I called you on the house phone. Come up, you said. Err really? Maybe that’s how celebrity editors interviewed newbies, I thought. Back then I didn’t have the confidence to say: “No, I’ll wait for you in the lobby, you pervert.”
In the article she said , “You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault.” And how speaking up against him meant carrying a heavy price which not many women can afford to pay.
After Ramani’s tweet, few other journalists also accused Akbar of calling women to his hotel room for interviews and made them feel uncomfortable with his gestures and words.
So many of us have an MJ story. "Can I come over to your house with a bottle of rum?" he said. NO, was the answer.... Couldnt 'do' anything. Some dont get the meaning of No... they move on to the next, dont they https://t.co/eMnO6Y3PNX— Harinder Baweja (@shammybaweja) October 8, 2018
He was this brilliant,flamboyant #editor who dabbled in politics, who called me-my 1st job- to his hotel room to 'discuss work', after i put the edition to bed-read midnight, & made life at work hell when i refused.,cudnt speak up due to various compulsions, but yes #MeTooIndia— prerna singh bindra (@prernabindra) October 6, 2018
OMG! He turned up at my friend's house one night for a coffee. As a single mother with a sleeping child she told him she could neither invite him in nor go out with him. From next day he made life hell for her at their workplace https://t.co/3XRj7oWK94— Sujata Anandan (@sujataanandan) October 8, 2018
According to Scroll.in, a former journalist who worked under Akbar in the 1990s but asked to remain unidentified, said “he would try his luck with anything that moved, but was not particularly vindictive”.
Outlook has written to Akbar for a response to the allegations . This article will be updated if he responds.