Indian minister accused of harassing female colleagues files defamation suit amid protests

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi

Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi

Her announcement follows the release of a series of allegations against India's junior foreign minister and a former editor, M J Akbar, the first politician to be named as the #MeToo movement gained momentum.

The minister after landing in India, on Sunday denied the allegations of sexual misconduct levelled against him by several women colleagues from his journalist days. "I will be taking appropriate legal action", Akbar said, according to NDTV. Later, other journalists also came out with charges against the minister.

In the latest allegation to surface against Akbar, Majlie de Puy Kamp, a New York-based journalist, said Akbar molested her when she was an 18-year-old intern at his newspaper Asian Age in New Delhi in 2007.

"The only office where I worked with her was that of The Asian Age".

In October previous year, when the #MeToo campaign peaked in Hollywood, journalist Priya Ramani had written an article for Vogue India, titled, "To the Harvey Weinstein of the world" and narrated her ordeal about the gut-wrenching incident of sexual misconduct she faced during a job interview with a renowned journalist who had "transformed Indian journalism". "You be the judge", he wrote.

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In a Vogue India article published previous year, Ramani described how an acclaimed newspaper editor called her for a job interview to his "plush south Mumbai hotel" when she was 23 and he was 43.

Rebutting allegations by some others, Akbar said: "Another accusation was made repeatedly by Ghazala Wahab, in an effort to damage my reputation". This is deeply distressing.

The veteran editor, who founded several publications, has been accused of a range of inappropriate behaviour by female journalists who previously worked as his subordinates. "These allegations are false, motivated and baseless". It is utterly freakish to believe that anything could have happened in that tiny space, and, moreover, that no one else in the vicinity would come to know, in the midst of a working day.

The complaint further says that Ramani herself, while putting forward the "defamatory statements, relating to incidents which allegedly occurred 20 years ago, simultaneously admits that the complainant has not done anything to her". She had, she said, wanted to take up the matter but the receptionists had told her that any kind of publicity could adversely affect their careers and that their families were dependent on their jobs and the salaries they brought home.

"My account of sexual harassment".

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