The Congress on Wednesday demanded that Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar respond to the sexual harassment allegations against him, or step down from his position. At least eight journalists have accused the veteran journalist of sexually harassing them in the past.
The first woman who openly accused him pointed out that the Bharatiya Janata Party leader has been sexually harassing women since the 1980s, when he was a member of the Congress.
Congress leader Jaipal Reddy told reporters that Akbar needs to offer a “satisfactory explanation”, PTI reported. “How can he be in the ministry with serious allegations being levelled against him,” Reddy said.
Since October 5, several women have used social media to make allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against various journalists, media professionals and writers.
Akbar is currently leading a 70-member business delegation at a conclave in Nigeria, The Hindu reported.
The Samajwadi Party has also demanded his resignation. “The allegations against Mr Akbar is the Harvey Weinstein moment for India,” Samajwadi Party spokesperson Ghanshyam Tiwari said. “The Modi government talks of beti bachao, beti padhao [save the girl child, educate her] but the people of India have built a movement which seeks justice for women.”
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to sack Akbar. “Three journalists have shown to the world the real face of the cabinet minister who heads MEA [and] those details are horrific,” ANI quoted Owaisi as saying. “We will wait and see if PM walks the talk.”
The minister of state has not posted anything on social media since the allegations surfaced.
On Tuesday, Congress leader Manish Tewari demanded an investigation into claims against Akbar. “It is an extremely serious matter and the minister concerned needs to speak up,” Tewari said. “Silence cannot be a way out. This matter should be investigated. We would like to hear from both the minister in question and the prime minister on this matter.”
The Congress took to Twitter to criticise Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj for not responding to queries about the allegations. “Union Minister Sushma Swaraj’s reaction is not a surprise,” the Congress tweeted. “Shielding sexual predators is in Bharatiya Janata Party’s DNA.”