Number of serious allegations of molestation and exploitation against MoS for External Affairs, M J Akbar

The #MeToo trend is spreading like a wildfire in India. Women across the country are using social media to speak up about the incidents where they have been victims of sexual harassment. Many women have also named the persons who gave allegedly harassed them, this include names of many many prominent personalities across various spheres of life. And now the trend seems to have entered the political arena.

Ghazala Wahab, an associate editor for the Force newsmagazine, has made shocking allegations of sexual exploitations by M J Akbar, during her tenure in Asian Age when the latter was editor of it. She has alleged that Akbar continuously tried to force her through various means for several years at workplace. After this alleged revelation, several other women, most of whom were Akbar’s professional juniors at some point, have come out to make similar accusations of exploitation and molestation against him.

Earlier In a poignant article for Vogue in 2017, journalist Priya Ramani, shared an account from 1997 when she was a rookie in the media industry and Akbar was her ‘boss’. Ramani said that Akbar invited her into a hotel room in Mumbai around 7pm, when she was 23 and he was 43, for an interview and made uncomfortable moves towards her.

“Turns out you were as talented a predator as you were a writer. It was more date, less interview. You offered me a drink from the mini bar (I refused, you drank vodka), we sat on a small table for two that overlooked the Queen’s Necklace and you sang me old Hindi songs after inquiring after my musical preferences. You thought you were irresistible,” she wrote.

Ramani further alleged that Akbar asked her to sit beside him on the bed in the middle of the interview. “I escaped that night, you hired me, I worked for you for many months even though I swore I would never be in a room alone with you again.”

Amid the growing controversy regarding the Minister, rumors are that once Akbar returns from his Nigeria tour, he will be made to quit.  “There should be an investigation. Men in position of power often do this. This applies to media, politics and seniors working in companies. Now that women have started speaking out, we should take it seriously,” Woman and Child Development Minister, Maneka Gandhi told news channel India Today.

On the MeToo movement spreading through the country, Defense Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman has said, “I support the courage with which many women are speaking out, women who have gone through this must be a hard memory.”

But when asked specifically about Akbar, she said, I cannot speak on it much. “I may not be the right person to comment.” The evasive response comes amid demands for Akbar to come clean on the accusations of sexual harassment or resign by the Congress.