External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday chose to evade questions on sexual harassment allegations against her junior minister MJ Akbar, who was a newspaper editor before joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Minister of State for External Affairs was the first politician who faced the wrath of India’s own #MeToo movement with six women accusing him of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour when he was an editor of a newspaper.
When a reporter asked Swaraj that whether there will be an internal probe against her junior facing serious charges, the External Affairs Minister, a woman herself, didn’t utter a single word either to condemn or to defend the minister.
Reacting to Swaraj’s silent ‘defence’ of Akbar, the Opposition Congress said that it was not surprised by her reaction as shielding sexual predators was in the DNA of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
A woman journalist had accused that Akbar had once called him to his hotel room for a job interview. However, she said, it was more like a “date” than a job interview. Ramani claimed that the minister offered her wine and sang her old Hindi melodies.
“I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn’t ‘do’ anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator – maybe they’ll share,” she tweeted with a link of an article she wrote for Vogue India in October 2017.
Another journalist to worked under Akbar revealed that one day while she was doing her work, he was “standing behind her” and “plucked his bra”.
“He (MJ Akbar) plucked my bra strap and said something which I don’t remember now. I screamed at him,” The Indian Express quoted the journalist as saying.
Akbar is the first politician who was named in India’s #MeToo movement that is gathering momentum on social media after Union Minister Maneka Gandhi’s call for it. So far, the list of the men accused of sexual harassment largely consists people from the media, film and entertainment industry.