Even as MJ Akbar, the Minister of State for External Affairs, vehemently denied sexual harassment allegations against him that surfaced during the #MeToo movement, at least five women journalists who accused him have said that they stand by their statements.
Akbar also claimed on Sunday that the allegations against him were politically motivated.
"Akbar has decided to brazen it out. There is no conspiracy against Akbar, none of us — unlike him — have any political ambitions. We are speaking up at great cost to our personal and professional lives. The truth is the best defence in any defamation case. I'm not worried," The Indian Express quoted Priya Ramani as saying.
Ramani was one of the first women to name Akbar on Twitter, linking to a Vogue article that she had written in 2017. While she didn't name Akbar in the article, she said on Twitter that Akbar was her harasser. Ramani said that her incident took place at the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai when "I was 23, you were 43".
She recounted that Akbar had called her to the hotel in the evening and asked her to come up to his room for a job interview. She said he offered her a drink, which she refused, and even asked her to sit close to him.
Majlie de Puy Kamp, a US-based journalist whom HuffPost India had interviewed, told The Indian Express that she had a paper trail to prove her allegations against Akbar. She told the newspaper that she did not have a political agenda since she was not an Indian citizen and could not vote in the country.
de Puy Kamp had alleged that Akbar had tried to forcibly kiss her in 2007 when she was just 18 years old and interning with The Asian Age.
Akbar was reportedly friends with de Puy Kamp's parents. HuffPost India had reproduced an email that her father had written to Akbar over the incident, to which Akbar had replied "These are issues which are so prone to misunderstanding, that there is no point debating them. My profoundest apologies if there was anything inappropriate."
HuffPost India had also corroborated de Puy Kamp's account by reviewing the emails, and in interviews with three people who spoke to her immediately after her ordeal.
Three other journalists — Suparna Sharma, Shutapa Paul and Kanika Gahlaut — have all stood by their statements, The Indian Express reported.
Read the entire report on The Indian Express here.