#MeToo: PMO directs MJ Akbar to cut short foreign trip, return immediately

New Delhi: In the backdrop of the sexual allegations raised as part of #MeToo movement, the office of the prime minister will seek explanation from Union Minister of State for Foreign Affairs M. J. Akbar. The PMO has asked Akbar, who is presently abroad, to cut short his trip and return to India immediately.

The PMO intervened in the issue as the opposition is likely to utilise the issue for political agenda. More actions will be taken after receiving the explanation from Akbar. Meanwhile, there are reports that he is likely to be removed from the ministry.

Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi also had demanded action against M. J. Akbar in the backdrop of the allegations.

A clutch of female journalists had accused on Twitter recently that M.J. Akbar 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."

Akbar - who has edited prominent Indian newspapers like The Telegraph, Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian and is 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.

(With inputs from AFP)

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