Junior Indian minister Akbar may resign for sexually harassing women journalists as editor


BY S VENKAT NARAYAN Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, October 11: India’s junior minister for External Affairs MJ Akbar will take a call on whether to resign after being accused of sex harassment by six women in the tide of #MeToo allegations in India, government sources said today.

Akbar, a former editor, was away in Nigeria's Lagos for a Mahatma Gandhi event when the allegations surfaced against him.

Denying reports that Akbar had been asked to cut short his trip and resign, top sources said: "These are speculative stories."

Akbar's version will be heard after he returns, they said.

"There is no FIR (first information report) or formal complaint. These are moral issues and he should take a call," said sources.

Top ministers, including Akbar's boss External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, have refused to comment on the allegations. The opposition Congress Party has demanded that Akbar come clean or resign.

The only minister to call for an inquiry was Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi. "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 news channel India Today.

Journalist Priya Ramani was the first to call him out, by naming him as the man in an incident she had shared in a magazine article when the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US led to an explosion of #MeToo allegations.

Soon more women journalists came out with their accounts.

Many opposition leaders and newspaper editorials have demanded that Akbar should resign, or sacked if he fails to do so.

With a crucial general election due in six months, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cannot afford to be seen as defending a junior minister who is being exposed as a man who sexually harassed his female colleagues as an editor over two decades ago.

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