Minister accused in India’s growing #MeToo storm

M.J. Akbar, who was a well-known veteran editor, was accused of making sexual advances against women when they were starting out in the media. (AFP)
Updated 09 October 2018
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Minister accused in India’s growing #MeToo storm

  • Many women in India have in recent days taken to social media to out sexual predators
  • The trigger appeared to be actress Tanushree Dutta

NED DELHI: India’s belated #MeToo movement snowballed Tuesday after a clutch of female journalists accused a minister in Narendra Modi’s government, a well-known veteran editor, of sexual harassment.
The women took to Twitter to allege how M.J. Akbar, now a junior foreign minister, conducted job interviews and meetings in fancy hotel rooms and made sexual advances when they were starting out in the media.
Priya Ramani, the first journalist to go public with the allegations, identified Akbar as the unnamed editor whose inappropriate behavior she had written about in an article last year.
Ramani said she was 23 when Akbar called her to a Mumbai hotel room for a job interview around 20 years ago.
Akbar was “an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer,” she said in the article which she reposted on Twitter on Monday.
“You know how to pinch, pat, rub, grab and assault. Speaking up against you still carries a heavy price that many young women cannot afford to pay.”
India’s foreign ministry was yet to respond to a request for comment from AFP and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj ignored reporters when asked whether she would investigate the claims.
Akbar — who has edited prominent Indian newspapers like The Telegraph, Asian Age and The Sunday Guardian and is a also a member of parliament — was yet to comment.
Another journalist, preferring to remain anonymous, said she declined a job offer after “the whole experience of an interview sitting on a bed in a hotel room followed by an invitation to come over for a drink.”
Journalist Prerna Singh Bindra said Akbar “made life at work hell” when she refused his sexual overtures.
Many women in India have in recent days taken to social media to out sexual predators, emboldening others to come out with their experiences.
Bollywood figures, stand-up comedians and other top journalists have all found themselves accused of abusing their positions to behave improperly toward women.
The trigger appeared to be actress Tanushree Dutta, who has accused well-known Bollywood actor Nana Patekar of inappropriate behavior on a film set 10 years ago.
On Monday, the political editor of the leading Hindustan Times daily quit amid swirling allegations of sexual misconduct.


May to tell British parliament Brexit ‘95 percent’ settled, faces party mutiny

Updated 22 October 2018
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May to tell British parliament Brexit ‘95 percent’ settled, faces party mutiny

  • ‘Ninety-five percent of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocols are now settled,’ according to a partial transcript released by her office
  • Talks have stalled over how to stop its land frontier with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, becoming a hard border again

LONDON: Prime Minister Theresa May will tell Britain’s parliament on Monday that Brexit negotiations are “95 percent” complete but that she cannot accept the European Union’s Northern Ireland border proposals — as she faces down an increasingly mutinous faction within her own party.
May has been on the receiving end of a furious backlash from Brexit hardliners in her own party after indicating at an EU summit last week that she could accept a longer post-divorce implementation phase than previously envisaged.
Her shift aimed to break an impasse in negotiations between London and Brussels over how to keep the Irish border open after Brexit, by giving the two sides more time to agree their future relationship.
But it infuriated Brexiteer colleagues who fear remaining tied to the EU for years after Britain’s formal departure next March.
Several Sunday newspapers said rebellious MPs were preparing a fresh bid to topple her leadership this week, many carrying colorful off-record quotes from the plotters.
In a bid to calm passions, May will address MPs in the House of Commons on Monday where she will say the divorce deal with Brussels is nearly done.
“Ninety-five percent of the Withdrawal Agreement and its protocols are now settled,” she will tell parliamentarians, according to a partial transcript released by her office late Sunday.
Highlighting progress in the year-long talks, she will say agreements have now been reached across a broad range of issues including with Spain on the status of the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, and with Cyprus on the UK’s military bases there.
“We have broad agreement on the structure and scope of the future relationship, with important progress made on issues like security, transport and services,” she will say.
But on Ireland she will seek to reassure MPs in her own party that she will not bow to the EU’s current proposals.
“As I set out last week, the original backstop proposal from the EU was one we could not accept, as it would mean creating a customs border down the Irish Sea and breaking up the integrity of the UK,” she will say.
“I do not believe that any UK Prime Minister could ever accept this. And I certainly will not.”
The so-called backstop is a proposal to keep either Northern Ireland or all of Britain in a customs union should future trade talks end in deadlock.
Talks have stalled over how to stop its land frontier with the Republic of Ireland, an EU member, becoming a hard border again.
London believes customs and other checks can be avoided through a new trade agreement with Brussels, but accepts the need for a fallback plan until that deal is agreed.
However, the two sides have so far been unable to settle the terms of this so-called backstop.
France’s Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau told the BBC Sunday that the bloc needs “definitive answers, or at least no temporary measures which disappear and we don’t know what to do afterwards.”
Despite voting in favor of a split from Europe, the British public remain deeply polarized on Brexit.
On Saturday more than half a million anti-Brexit protesters hit the streets of London, the largest demonstration since 750,000 people showed up against the Iraq war in 2003.