NEW DELHI: Union Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs MJ Akbar, who has been accused of sexual harassment by several women in the past few days, returned to India from Nigeria on Sunday morning.
When quizzed by reporters upon his arrival at the Delhi airport to comment on the sexual harassment allegations made against him, the Minister said, ''there will be a statement later on.''
— ANI (@ANI) October 14, 2018
Amid an increasing clamour for Akbar's resignation, the BJP is likely to take a clear stand on the allegations of sexual harassment made against him once he explains his position to the party's central leadership.
Akbar, a former journalist and now Minister of State in the Modi government, was in Nigeria on an official trip. He has not responded to the charges made against him so far.
While the BJP has maintained a studied silence on the matter so far, party sources have said the charges against him are serious and his continuance as a minister is no longer guaranteed.
A final call is expected to be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the party sources said.
There is also a view within the party that there is no legal case against him and allegations pertain to a time long before he became a minister.
Meanwhile, BJP chief Amit Shah has said that he was not in a position to comment on MJ Akbar, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, as the claims against the Union Minister needed to be "looked into".
"It's difficult to comment on something that comes on a website. One can put anything on a website. So, this needs to be checked. If that is true or false, whether such an incident happened or not," Shah said in an interview to ETV.
"It will have to be seen if it is the same person who is levelling allegations or someone else has put it up (on social media). All these things will have to be seen. And once we do it, we will certainly think over it (the action against Akbar)," he added.
More than half a dozen women journalists have accused Akbar of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour at various stages of his journalistic career, during which he launched and edited several newspapers.
On Friday, US-based journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp told online news portal HuffPost India that Akbar forcibly kissed her on the last day of her internship at The Asian Age office in 2007.
Earlier this week, FORCE magazine Executive Editor Ghazala Wahab, in an article on a news portal, wrote an account of her "harrowing experience" with Akbar.
Former Mint Lounge Editor Priya Ramani, who wrote about a predatory "celebrity editor" without naming anyone in a piece last year, on Monday publicly identified Akbar as the central character of her piece.
"I began this piece with my MJ Akbar story. Never named him because he didn't 'do' anything. Lots of women have worse stories about this predator - maybe they'll share," she said.
Journalist Shutapa Paul recalled in a series of tweets on Wednesday that as the India Today editor, whenever Akbar came to Kolkata, he would invite her to his hotel, usually after 8 PM. He would then drink alcohol and ask her to also do so.
Other female journalists who have levelled allegations against Akbar include Prerna Singh Bindra, Sujata Anandan, Shuma Raha, Harinder Baweja and Anju Bharti.