India's main opposition party Congress said yesterday that junior minister for external affairs and well-known journalist MJ Akbar must either offer a satisfactory explanation on the allegations of sexual harassment against him or resign immediately.
The party also demanded an inquiry into his conduct as the #MeToo campaign gathered momentum in India and some women journalists went public accusing Akbar, a former editor, of sexually harassing them during his stint as a journalist.
Congress spokesperson S Jaipal Reddy told a press conference here that "I think Mr MJ 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. We demand an inquiry into MJ Akbar's conduct."
Reddy also questioned External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's “silence” on the issue, saying she is “evading” responsibility and is not prepared to comment on her subordinate.
Akbar was first named on Monday by senior journalist Priya Ramani, who retweeted an article she had written a year ago titled "To the Harvey Weinsteins of the world", where she recounted what she called her first experience of workplace harassment. Ramani did not name anyone in the original piece, but said in Monday's tweet that the article had been about Akbar.
Since then, five other women have also come forward with their own stories, naming Akbar.
The movement began with Bollywood actress Tanushree Datta's accusations of sexual harassment against actor Nana Patekar a few weeks ago and has gathered momentum as many other women, including journalists, came out in the open to speak out at last.
The Editors Guild of India has called for investigations into all allegations of harassment of women in newsrooms, reported Reuters. The association of editors said it "extends its total support to all women journalists, who suffered a disadvantage in their careers, physical or mental trauma, as a result of any sexual predation."