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BJP leader says women journalists at fault too

“I don’t consider women journalists to be so innocent that anyone can misuse them,” says Kelkar

New Delhi: Amid mounting pressure on the government to sack its Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar for several sexual harassment allegations against him, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Lata Kelkar on Friday said that women journalists who accused him of misconduct were at fault too.

“I welcome this #MeToo campaign. I think MJ Akbar was a journalist before becoming a minister and all those who have accused him are also journalists. But I don’t consider women journalists to be so innocent that anyone can misuse them,” Chief of BJP’s Women Wing for Madhya Pradesh (MP) Kelkar told media at a public event.

When asked if any action should be taken against Akbar, Kelkar said an inquiry would be held to probe the charges against him.

“MJ Akbar was a journalist and all the accusers are also journalists. Both were at fault. Any action against Akbar can only be taken after a thorough probe,” she added.

Several opposition parties, including Congress, Shiv Sena, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Left have demanded Akbar’s resignation.

Akbar, who has been the editor of prominent newspapers such as ‘The Telegraph’, ‘The Sunday Guardian’, and ‘Asian Age’, is a member of Rajya Sabha (Upper House of Parliament) from BJP.

He has flown to Equatorial Guinea from Nigeria, and is expected to return to India on Sunday.

The Minister has been accused of sexual harassment by at least seven women journalists. He was first called out by senior journalist Priya Ramani, who had last year written about his “inappropriate behaviour” without taking his name.

This week, she confirmed that the allegation was against Akbar.

“MJ Akbar is an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer,” Ramani had written in her article for ‘Vogue’ magazine.

Detailing an incident, she said Akbar had called her for a job interview to a south Mumbai hotel when she was 23 and he was 43.

“He did not meet me in the hotel lobby and insisted that we meet him in his room. There, he offered me a drink. Although I refused, he drank vodka, sang old songs to me and asked me to sit close to him,” Ramani tweeted.

After Ramani’s revelation, several other woman journalists such as Prerna Singh Bindra, Shuma Raha and Shutapa Paul came forward with similar stories about Akbar “conducting interviews” in hotel rooms.

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