India #MeToo: Minister accused of multiple sexual harassment files for defamation

Believe Women Saying #MeToo Panel Will Look Into Issue of Harassment Maneka Gandhi

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi. Credit PTI

Journalist Priya Ramani on Monday accused Union Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party member MJ Akbar of attempting to silence women who have accused him of sexual harassment "through intimidation and harassment".

MUMBAI: Indian journalist Priya Ramani said that she was ready to fight allegation of defamation laid against her Indian union minister MJ Akbar.

The suit filed on behalf of Akbar by counsels Karanjawala and company added that this was enough ground to indicate that the defamatory articles (by Ramani) are "only a figment of her imagination and are only meant to malign the reputation of the complainant".

Since then, more than a dozen other women, mostly journalists who worked with Akbar or interviewed with him for jobs when he was an editor in Kolkata and New Delhi, have accused him of sexual harassment in the #MeToo campaign sweeping India.

"The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice", said Akbar in a one-page statement given to Reuters partner ANI in India.

Earlier, when asked about these charges against her ministerial colleague and whether there will be an internal inquiry against him, Swaraj evaded the question from reporters.

He said it was "pertinent to remember that both Ramani and Wahab kept working" with him even after these alleged incidents, and "this clearly establishes that they had no apprehension and discomfort". Mr. Akbar's basic theme: with elections round the corner, these charges are motivated.

"We are disappointed that Akbar did not choose to take this step (resigning) instead of threatening the complainants with legal action", it added. Come sit here, you said at one point, gesturing to a tiny space near you.

Hinting a political vendetta, he said "Why has this storm risen a few months before a general election?".

Akbar is facing allegations of sexual assault by number of women journalists.

"The scandalous allegations levelled by the accused, by the very tone and tenor are ex-facie defamatory and have not only damaged the goodwill and reputation of the complainant in his social circles and on the political stage but affected his personal reputation in the community, friends, family", it said. According to the report, it was her last day of internship at the The Asian Age in 2007 when Akbar forced himself on her.

Following Wahab's account, women took to Twitter and exposed accounts of his misbehaviour and sexual misconduct across newsrooms and hotels.

"These testimonies have emerged as a effect of a slow but increasing empowerment of women over the years and a #MeToo movement unfolding across social media in India and across the world".

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