#MeToo rattles Indian government as minister is accused of sexual harassment

Union Minister MJ Akbar 'sends resignation' through Email: Sources

Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar on Sunday denied the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him by several women colleagues from his journalist days and stated that his lawyers will look into the accusations to decide the legal course of action.

The complaint has been filed through Senior Partner of Karanjawala & Co, Sandeep Kapur.

Akbar is one of the highest-profile figures so far to face accusations in India's burgeoning #MeToo movement. "The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice". Feebly adding, he is being targeted right before the 2019 general elections, which, according to him, is proof that the accusers have a political agenda.

Though there is little political cost to the BJP if Akbar goes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has had a track record since his time as chief minister of Gujarat of backing his ministers even when they have faced criminal charges and have been chargesheeted.

The floodgates of allegations opened when journalists across the country joined the #MeToo movement and spoke up about Akbar's "predator behaviours" across newsrooms.

"Now a question is being raised over the tall claims made by the BJP leadership on Indian culture and civilization. By instituting a case of criminal defamation against me, Mr Akbar has made his stand clear: rather than engage with the serious allegations that many women have made against him, he seeks to silence them through intimidation and harassment", she said. "These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation and goodwill".

"Needless to say, I am ready to fight allegations of defamation laid against me, as truth and the absolute truth is my only defence", she said.

Hitting out at Priya, he had on Sunday said: "Priya Ramani began this campaign a year ago with a magazine article".

The string of allegations began with a tweet from journalist Priya Ramani on October 8 in which she said Akbar was the man who had harassed her as mentioned in her article for Vogue India a year ago. "You be the judge", Akbar said, referring to the elections to be held in five states-Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana-starting 12 November.

"The only office where I worked with Ghazala Wahab was that of The Asian Age".

Shutapa Paul, who also accused Akbar of harassing her, said if the minister "has any moral responsibility he should step down". A US-based scribe through her blog has also come forward to accuse the minister of trying to forcefully kiss her. Majlie de Puy Kamp, revealed that she was sexually harassed by Akbar in 2007 when she was an 18-year-old intern.

She said the issue of women security and self-respect is being raised in society, yet evils like sexual exploitation and harassment of women at various places are being reported.

Harinder Baweja, one of the women who has accused Akbar, wrote on Twitter that his response and legal threats were absurd.



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