India´s junior foreign minister has denied sexual harassment allegations made by multiple women including journalists, and declined calls for his resignation, as the country´s #MeToo movement gathers momentum.
Veteran newspaper editor MJ Akbar, issued a two-page rejoinder in which he said allegations of #MeToo sexual misconduct when he was a journalist were “without evidence”.
In a statement he said, “Allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated. These false, baseless and wild allegations have caused irreparable damage to my reputation.”
The statement from Indian minister also added, “Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections. Whatever be the case, now that I have returned, my lawyers will look into these (harassment claims).”
MJ Akbar, a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi´s government who has just returned from a trip to Africa, went on to question some of his accusers in the rejoinder.
Journalist Ghazala Wahab wrote a long #MeToo post for online news website earlier in the week, accusing MJ Akbar of sexual harassment and saying MJ Akbar had “sexually harassed and molested” her.
Journalist Ghazala wrote in continuation to #MeToo story, “This is my story. My last six months as a journalist at Asian Age, the newspaper he edited, were pure hell with repeated physical advances.”
MJ Akbar claimed that Ghazala Wahab´s account was “an effort to damage my reputation.”
“The only office where I worked with her was that of The Asian Age. A part of the editorial team then worked out of a small hall,” it said.
“It is utterly bizzare to believe that anything could have happened in that tiny space, and, moreover, that no one else in that vicinity would come to know,” MJ Akbar added.
The Indian minister also questioned the account of journalist Priya Ramani, who was the first to publicly accuse him of inappropriate behavior.
But he still faces calls to be sacked from his position as more sexual allegations emerge. Earlier this week HuffPost India shared another account by a woman who was allegedly harassed by MJ Akbar while working with him as a teenage intern.
India´s belated #MeToo movement has made headlines over the last few days with women sharing powerful accounts of alleged harassment by several powerful men including a minister, Bollywood filmmakers, news editors and comedians.
On Friday, the production of a Bollywood blockbuster was halted after the film´s lead called for #MeToo harassment claims against its director and co-star to be “stringently” investigated.
Movie star Akshay Kumar said he had requested that the making of “House full 4” be stopped following allegations against director Sajid Khan and actor Nana Patekar.
Accusations that Nana Patekar behaved inappropriately on a film set 10 years ago with actress Tanushree Dutta sparked India´s #MeToo movement.
Three women, an actor, an assistant director and a journalist took to Twitter on Thursday to accuse Sajid Khan of sexual harassment in continuation of #MeToo movement.
The actress said director Sajid Khan had insisted that she strip during an audition while the journalist alleged the director had flashed her during an interview.