The #MeToo movement has gathered steam in India with a cascade of allegations against actors, filmmakers, comedians, authors and journalists. Unlike America, where the expose was because of investigative journalism, here in India it is mostly spontaneous outpouring in the last few days. In fact, the hashtag #MeToo is among the most trending topics in India. A large number of tweets, that included stories of sexual harassment and even assault, and screenshots of incriminating conversations have sparked the debate about consent and complicity.
And one of the prominent names in this debate is of Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs and former Editor MJ Akbar. Such is the gravity of the situation that at least seven journalists have accused Akbar of harassment and inappropriate behaviour at workplace.
Take a look at some of the women journalists describing their harrowing experience with MJ:
In an article in The Wire, Ghazala Wahab, executive editor of FORCE news magazine and co-author of the book ‘Dragon on our Doorstep: Managing China Through Military Power’ wrote that during her initial years at the newspaper, she “accepted everything as part of the office culture — Akbar’s flirtation with young sub-editors, his blatant favouritism and his bawdy jokes”.
During her third year with The Asian Age, her nightmare began. She wrote:
She wrote in conclusion:
HT Mint Lounge editor Priya Ramani was the first to name the minister on Twitter. Akbar had allegedly called her for an interview at a Mumbai hotel and had made advances towards her which made her uncomfortable. While he was 43, she was 23 years old.
Writer and journalist Harinder Baweja said:
Prerna Singh Bindra
Writer Prerna Singh Bindra said MJ called her to his hotel room to ‘discuss work’ at midnight and when she refused, he made her life at work hell.
As per media reports, other women journalists too have claimed that Akbar “drank Vodka” during their “job interviews” and also asked them to “sit close” to him.
Amid the barrage of allegations, women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi, has said that there should be an “investigation”. The minister added that women in India have so far been scared to speak up against such behaviour and “Now when women have gathered courage to speak up, the allegations must be taken seriously.”
Clearly, the winds of change have begun. While so far the BJP has remained silent on this issue, but if reports are to be believed then MJ might step down. The Centre seems to be contemplating the situation.