Indian minister in #MeToo storm quits

NEW DELHI: An Indian minister at the centre of a #MeToo storm announced his resignation on Wednesday while insisting the sexual harassment allegations levelled against him by nearly two dozen women were false.

M. J. Akbar was junior foreign minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which he joined after a long career as a newspaper editor.

Accusations against Akbar snowballed last week after journalist Priya Ramani accused him of inappropriate behaviour when the pair worked together in the 1990s.

On Sunday he dismissed the accusations and the following day said he was suing Ramani for defamation.

Twenty other women have since offered to testify against him.

“Since I have decided to seek justice in a court of law in my personal capacity, I deem it appropriate to step down from office and challenge false accusations against me,” Akbar said in a Wednesday statement.

India’s belated #MeToo movement has made headlines over the last few days with women sharing accounts of alleged harassment by several powerful men including Bollywood filmmakers, news editors and comedians.

On Friday, the production of a Bollywood blockbuster was halted after the film’s lead called for harassment claims against its director and co-star to be “stringently” investigated.

Star Akshay Kumar said he had requested that the making of “Housefull 4” be stopped following allegations against director Sajid Khan and actor Nana Patekar.

Three women had accused Khan of sexual harassment the day before the film was halted.

One said Khan had insisted that she strip during an audition while another alleged the director had flashed his penis at her during an interview. — AFP

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