In­dian gov­ern­ment min­is­ter re­signs, de­nies sex harass­ment claims Tal­iban tar­get NATO con­voy, killing two Afghan civil­ians

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World -

M.J. Ak­bar, In­dia’s ju­nior ex­ter­nal af­fairs min­is­ter, re­signed Wed­nes­day amid ac­cu­sa­tions by 20 women of sex­ual harass­ment dur­ing his pre­vi­ous ca­reer as one of the coun­try’s most prom­i­nent news ed­i­tors, be­com­ing the most pow­er­ful man to fall in In­dia’s bur­geon­ing #Metoo move­ment.

Ak­bar said in a state­ment that he would “chal­lenge false ac­cu­sa­tions” in a per­sonal ca­pac­ity, re­fer­ring to a crim­i­nal defama­tion case he filed Mon­day against the first woman to ac­cuse him.

Ak­bar, 67, first served as a law­maker for In­dia’s then-rul­ing In­dia Na­tional Con­gress party be­tween 1989 and 1991. He then edited The Tele­graph, The Asian Age and other news­pa­pers and wrote sev­eral books of non­fic­tion, be­com­ing one of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in the In­dian news me­dia.

He re­turned to pub­lic life in March 2014, when he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and was ap­pointed na­tional spokesman dur­ing the 2014 elec­tion that brought the BJP and Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi to power.

Ak­bar main­tained a low pro­file after join­ing In­dia’s Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs in July 2016 as its ju­nior min­is­ter, rep­re­sent­ing In­dia over­seas at multi­na­tional con­fer­ences.

On Wed­nes­day he thanked Modi, who had re­mained silent about the al­le­ga­tions, for the op­por­tu­nity to serve in pub­lic of­fice.

In In­dia’s deeply con­ser­va­tive so­ci­ety, the #Metoo move­ment be­gan be­lat­edly but has picked up steam in re­cent weeks. Since Septem­ber, In­dian ac­tresses and writ­ers have flooded so­cial me­dia with al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual harass­ment and as­sault by their su­pe­ri­ors and col­leagues.

The string of ac­cu­sa­tions against Ak­bar be­gan when jour­nal­ist Priya Ra­mani iden­ti­fied him on Twit­ter on Oct. 8 as the un­named ed­i­tor that she had de­scribed in a story about news­room sex­ual harass­ment pub­lished in Vogue last year.

Other women in me­dia have al­leged that Ak­bar in­ter­viewed job can­di­dates in ho­tel rooms at night; groped, mas­saged and forcibly kissed young in­terns and em­ploy­ees; and of­fered young women choice out-of-town post­ings so that he could go visit them there. Zabi­hul­lah Mu­jahid said an in­sur­gent sui­cide bomber rammed his car into the NATO con­voy.

The at­tack on the NATO con­voy came at the end of a par­tic­u­larly vi­o­lent day across Afghanistan as ten­sions are ris­ing ahead of the coun­try’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions on Satur­day.

A Tal­iban bomb­ing in south­ern Hel­mand prov­ince killed a can­di­date run­ning in the elec­tions. The Tal­iban also at­tacked check­points in the north­ern Bagh­lan prov­ince, killing six po­lice­men and wound­ing two oth­ers in a four-hour bat­tle. Also, in east­ern Maidan War­dak prov­ince, a sui­cide car bomber tar­geted a mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle, killing two Afghan army troops.

The Tal­iban have threat­ened the polls and warned teach­ers and stu­dents not to par­tic­i­pate in the vote and not to al­low schools to be used as polling cen­ters.

The in­sur­gents said in a state­ment Wed­nes­day that they will tar­get Satur­day’s elec­tions, which they view as il­le­git­i­mate, but that they do not want to harm civil­ians.

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