The embers from the MeToo movement have reached the doorstep of the Narendra Modi government, with at least two senior scribes raking up allegations against Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs MJ Akbar.
Writing in the Vogue Magazine in October last year, journalist Priya Ramani recalled a meeting with then editor MJ Akbar at a hotel in Mumbai, in which she accused Akbar of making inappropriate advances.
“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 with you alone,” Ramani had recounted in her magazine piece.
Fast forward to October 2018, the allegations against Akbar have surfaced all over again.
“The right-wing trolls who suddenly turned feminists when it came to criticising sexual transgressions from men in liberal media are conspicuously silent on MJ Akbar,” tweeted Abhishek Baxi, a journalist and a contributor at Forbes Magazine.
Baxi’s tweet was picked up by another senior journalist, Rohini Singh, who went a step further and accused another “top cabinet” minister of inappropriate conduct towards women in the past.
“Not just MJ Akbar. A top cabinet minister indulges in such inappropriate talk about clothes women journalists wear. But he won’t be outed for obvious reasons!” Singh wrote on Twitter.
The accusations against Akbar and another cabinet minister of the Modi government follow a heady day which witnessed the “stepping away” of Tanmay Bhat, the co-founder of comedy group All India Bakchod (AIB). Bhat has been accused of not acting on complaints against former AIB member Utsav Chakraborty, who had been called out on social media last week.
“We cannot overlook Tanmay’s role and in light of this, he will be stepping away from his association with AIB until further notice. This implies that Tanmay will not be involved with the day to day functioning of AIB or in any other matter,” AIB said in a statement on Monday.
The comedy group, which shot to fame two years ago with the roasting of celebrities, has also sent on “temporary leave” another of its senior member Gursimran Khamba, who is also facing allegations of sexual harassment.
“We have also just been appraised of the allegations against Gursimran Khamba on social media. At this point in time, these allegations pertain to a private matter and he has released a statement of his own about the same. However, as an organisation, we believe that it would be prudent to place Gursimran Khamba on a temporary leave of absence until we have more clarity on the matter,” read AIB’s statement.
Long buried allegations of inappropriate behaviour in the entertainment and media industries are tumbling out in open as the MeToo movement gains steam in the country.
Senior journalist and political editor of Hindustan Times, Prashant Jha, earlier in the day tendered his resignation after a woman lawyer accused him of sending inappropriate messages on Whatsapp.
Veteran Bollywood actor Nana Patekar has also been accused of sexually harassing actress Tanushree Dutta, which she had revealed during an interview last month. Dutta says that the incident took place in 2008 on the sets of the movie Horn OK Pleassss.
Patekar has denied the allegations levelled on him.
“10 saal pehle jawaab de chuka hun… Jo jhooth hai woh jhooth hi hai (I have answered this 10 years ago. What is a lie is a lie),” Nana said before he sat in the car and left.
The Ministry of External Affairs has been asked to respond to allegations against Akbar. The story will be updated with a response as soon as it comes in.