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.


At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

Updated 5 min 54 sec ago
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At least one dead in multiple shooting in Dutch city of Utrecht

  • Police are not ruling out terrorism as a possible motive
  • ‘Threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province’

DUBAI: At least one person is dead and multiple others injured in a shooting incident in Utrecht, in The Netherlands.

Police have not ruled out terrorism as a possible motive in the shooting that left several people “heavily injured” - the shooter remains at large. Police have erected a white tent over an area where a body appears to be lying next to a tram where the shooting happened, AP reported.

Utrecht Police tweeted an image of a man named Gökman Tanis, asking people for information on him in connection with the incident — but warned members of the public not to approach him.

The main counterterrorism unit in The Netherlands, the  National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), told the Dutch public broadcaster that the incident had all the characteristics of a terrorist attack.

Counter-terrorism forces have surrounded a building where the gunman may be located, local broadcaster NOS News reported.

There was gunfire at several locations in the city, the Dutch national counter-terrorism chief said.

“Shooting took place this morning at several locations in Utrecht,” Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg told a news conference in The Hague. “A major police operation is under way to arrest the gunman.”

The Dutch anti-terror coordinator has raised the threat alert to its highest level around the central Dutch town of Utrecht following the shooting incident on a tram in the city, with the shooter still on the run.

Paramilitary police have increased security at airports, mosques and other vital public infrastructure. Police have also advised schools in the area to keep their doors closed.
Anti-terror coordinator Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg said in a statement that the “threat level has gone to 5, exclusively for the Utrecht province,” referring to the highest level. 
“The culprit is still on the run. A terror motive cannot be excluded,” he said in a Twitter message. He called on citizens to closely follow the indications of the local police. 
Dutch police say they are looking for a least one person who might have fled by car.

Spokesman Bernhard Jens did not exclude more people might be involved. 
“We want to try to catch the person responsible as soon as possible,” Jens said.

A hotline to address queries about the situation. The Netherlands has one of the strictest gun laws and ownership is limited to law enforcement, hunters and target shooters.

 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that the government is currently holding crisis talks.

Aalbersberg earlier said on Twitter that he was having “crisis consultations”, adding: “Terrorist motive not excluded. Information not yet full.”

 

Local media reports have said counter-terrorism police were seen at the scene.

“Shooting incident... Several injured people reported. Assistance started,” the Utrecht police Twitter account said. “It is a shooting incident in a tram. Several trauma helicopters have been deployed to provide help.”

The 24 Oktoberplein is a busy Utrecht traffic junction, with a tram stop. Tram traffic was temporarily stopped due to the incident, but the trams are currently running again between Zuilenstein, Nieuwegein and IJsselstein.

(With AFP and Reuters)