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.
Since Monday, several women journalists have come out and accused Akbar of sexual harassment.
Journalist Priya Ramani was the first to state on record that Akbar had called her to his hotel room.
Ramani identified Akbar as the editor she had written about in an article in Vogue in October, 2017.
In her article, 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.
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, other journalists also accused Akbar of calling women to his hotel room for interviews and making 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
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”.
In an article in TheWire.in, journalist Ghazala Wahab has written about her harrowing experience with Akbar at The Asian Age office in the 1990s.
Suparna Sharma, currently the Resident Editor of The Asian Age, Delhi, told Indian Express that she was in her early 20s when she became a part of the launch team of the newspaper where she worked from 1993 to 1996. She reported to Akbar.
One day, she told The Indian Express, that she was making the page one of the paper, Akbar was “standing behind” her. “He plucked my bra strap and said something which I don’t remember now. I screamed at him,” she said.
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi became the first BJP minister to call for an investigation against Akbar.
"Men who are in positions of power often do this. And it applies to the media as well as to politics or senior personnel in companies," Gandhi told a TV news channel on Tuesday when asked about allegations against a “big” politician.
She said when women have started talking, their allegations should be taken seriously.
"Women are scared to speak out because they think people would make fun of them and doubt their character but now when they are speaking out we should take action against each and every allegation," she said.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj did not respond when she was asked on about any action against the minister.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Wednesday asked Akbar to either come clean in the wake of sexual harassment charges against him or step down as a Minister. It also sought an independent probe into the charges against him.
"He should either explain the charges though a statement or personally or should resign. The charges are serious and they should be probed independently," Congress spokesperson S. Jaipal Reddy told the media.
The #MeToo movement has intensified in the country with more women recounting their experiences of sexual harassment in the entertainment and media industry.
(With inputs from agencies)
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine