#MeToo claims have been rejected by India's junior foreign minister, a former editor of newspapers. In recent days, at least 10 women, mostly journalists, have accused M.J. Akbar of harassment as far back as 2007.
The 67-year-old Akbar threatened legal action against his accusers Sunday on his return from a trip to Nigeria, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government remained silent.
"The allegations of misconduct made against me are false and fabricated, spiced up by innuendo and malice," said Akbar in a statement issued in New Delhi, asserting that he was facing an "agenda" just months before India's general election.
"I could not reply earlier as I was on an official tour abroad," he added.
Timeline: one year of #MeToo
Sunday's Asian Age headlined its coverage: "False and fabricated, will take legal action: MJ Akbar on #MeToo charges"
Congress, India's main opposition party, had already called for Akbar's resignation.
Harassment during career starts?
Claims against Akbar have mounted since a tweet on October 8 from journalist Priya Ramani, who said Akbar was the man she mentioned in a Vogue India article a year ago.
Journalist Ghazala Wahab later said in an online post on The Wire that Akbar had "sexually harassed and molested" her, describing her last 6 months at The Asian Age as "pure hell with repeated physical advances."
New York-based journalist Majlie de Puy Kamp told the news website Huffington Post India that Akbar had "violated my boundaries" in 2007, when she was a teenage intern at the Asian Age in New Delhi.
Replying on Sunday, Akbar said Wahab's allegation dated back 21 years, referring to newspaper bureaus where he once worked as editor in Calcutta and New Delhi.
Akbar asserted it was utterly bizarre to believe that anything could have happened.
Harinder Baweja, a senior woman journalist with the Hindustan Times daily, said Akbar's accusers had "tried to deal with the trauma for two to three decades," adding that it was "absurd" to speak of a pre-election agenda.
India's burgeoning #MeToo outcry has surged in recent weeks, inspired by the movement that began in the United States last year, with claims also leveled at Bollywood filmmakers and comedians.
On Friday, the production of Bollywood's "Housefull 4" was halted after the film's lead actor leveled claims against a director and a co-star.
ipj/rc (Reuters, AP, AFP)