Smriti Irani says it was for Akbar to speak on charges against him
PTI, NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The #MeToo movement gathered pace on Thursday with more women speaking out on sexual harassment at workplace and support pouring from various quarters, including union minister Smriti Irani, even as she said it was for her cabinet colleague M J Akbar to speak on charges against him.
While the Mumbai Police began its probe against actor Nana Patekar, dance director Ganesh Acharya and two others on a complaint filed by actor Tanushree Dutta, fresh sexual harassment allegations tumbled out including against those in entertainment, media and advertising industries.
The latest to join the list was Subhash Ghai, who was accused of rape by an anonymous woman, even as the film director denied the allegation and threatened a defamation suit.
Meanwhile, demands continued for action against union minister M J Akbar, who has been accused by several former female colleagues of sexual harassment when he served as editor at various media organisations, though the ruling party members said it was for him to speak on the issue.
While the BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad refused to answer questions relating to the journalist-turned-politician, Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani said on the sidelines of an event in Mumbai that it was for the Minister of State for External Affairs, to respond to the charges even as she favoured justice for the "ladies who are speaking out".
Akbar, who is on a trip abroad and is scheduled to return on Sunday, has not spoken as yet on the charges against him.
A BJP leader said the party expects Akbar to offer an explanation to the party's top brass on the allegations against him before it takes a call on his future.
The party leader said the allegations were serious but there were several aspects to it, including that there was no legal case against him.
While some opposition parties including CPI(M) and Shiv Sena demanded Akbar's resignation, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said the #MeToo campaign is a "very big issue", but he will comment on that in detail at a press conference later.
Some BJP leaders are of the view that the charges against Akbar would do no good to the party's image in the run-up to crucial state assembly elections and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, more so when the party has gone on an overdrive to highlight the Narendra Modi government's "pro-women credentials".
The BJP's women's wing is embarking on a five-day relay marathon from Friday to publicise the pro-women schemes of the government.
Irani, a former TV actress and herself a vocal politician, urged people not to mock the women who are speaking out against harassment faced by them.
She said women do not go to work to be harassed but to work to live their dreams and earn a respectable living and it must be very difficult for them to come out and talk about whatever happened in their professional lives.
A top RSS functionary also appeared to support the #MeToo movement.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Joint General Secretary Dattatreya Hosabale shared a Facebook post of Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director of the social networking site, on his Twitter account.