NEW DELHI: India’s belated #MeToo movement snowballed Tuesday after a clutch of female journalists accused a minister in Narendra Modi’s government, a well-known veteran editor, of sexual harassment.
The women took to Twitter to allege how M.J. Akbar, now a junior foreign minister, conducted job interviews and meetings in fancy hotel rooms and made sexual advances when they were starting out in the media.
Priya Ramani, the first journalist to go public with the allegations, identified Akbar as the unnamed editor whose inappropriate behaviour she had written about in an article last year.
Ramani said she was 23 when Akbar called her to a Mumbai hotel room for a job interview around 20 years ago.
Akbar was “an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer,” she said in the article which she reposted on Twitter on Monday.
“You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault. Speaking up against you still carries a heavy price that many young women cannot afford to pay.”
India’s foreign ministry was yet to respond to a request for comment from AFP and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj ignored reporters when asked whether she would investigate the claims.
Akbar — who has edited prominent Indian newspapers like The Telegraph, Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian and is a also a member of parliament — was yet to comment.
Another journalist, preferring to remain anonymous, said she declined a job offer after “the whole experience of an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink.”
Journalist Prerna Singh Bindra said Akbar “made life at work hell” when she refused his sexual overtures.
Many women in India have in recent days taken to social media to out sexual predators, emboldening others to come out with their experiences.
Bollywood figures, stand-up comedians and other top journalists have all found themselves accused of abusing their positions to behave improperly towards women.
The trigger appeared to be actress Tanushree Dutta, who has accused well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behaviour on a film set 10 years ago.
On Monday, the political editor of the leading Hindustan Times daily quit amid swirling allegations of sexual misconduct.