New Delhi: The #MeToo campaign continued to singe minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar on Wednesday with more harrowing accounts of sexual assault being levelled against the former journalist and editor by women and the Congress demanding his resignation for failing to come up with any satisfactory explanation.
A day after journalist Priya Ramani spoke out about the sexual harassment that Mr Akbar had subjected her to, other journalists also shared their stories.
Ghazala Wahab, who worked with Mr Akbar in The Asian Age from 1994 to 1997, wrote of his persistence in trying to force himself on her in his office cabin, the emotional tactics he resorted to when he realised his physical advances would not work and how he even got the newspaper’s tarot card columnist to tell her that he really loved her.
Reacting to this and other accounts which chronicle Mr Akbar’s predatory behaviour, the Congress said on Wednesday that either he should offer “a satisfactory explanation on the allegations of sexual harassment against him” or resign immediately. The party also demanded an inquiry into his conduct.
A cornered Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, refused to answer any question on his Cabinet colleague. ‘Today the issue is Cabinet decisions, please concentrate on that,’ he said.
Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy said at a press conference:
‘I think Mr M.J. Akbar must either offer a satisfactory explanation or resign forthwith. How can he be in the ministry with serious allegations being levelled against him by responsible journalists who worked with him. Let there be an inquiry into it.’
Mr Reddy also questioned external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s silence on the issue, saying she was evading responsibility.Mr Akbar is currently abroad and has not commented on the controversy so far. On Tuesday, Ms Swaraj walked away when journalists confronted her on the issue.
Only Maneka Gandhi, the minister for women and child development, has reacted to the allegations, and called for an investigation. ‘There should be an investigation. Men in position of power often do this. This applies to the media, politics and seniors working in companies. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously,’ she said, and added that women are scared to speak out as they think people will make fun of them and doubt their character. But now that they are speaking out, “we should take action against each and every allegation’.
As the #MeToo campaign continues to gather momentum in India, more and more accusations against men in powerful positions in the media and films are coming out into the open.
In the past one week, several instances of harassment in India have come to light with women naming ‘perpetrators’ on the social media. Several organisations have already started internal probes and put the accused on notice.