- MJ Akbar was first accused of sex harassment by journalist Priya Ramani
- More women posted their #MeToo stories against MJ Akbar soon after
- Allegations false, fabricated, "spiced up by innuendo": MJ Akbar
Union Minister MJ Akbar, accused of sexual harassment by a dozen women in India's #MeToo movement, has sued for defamation the woman who had first named him -- journalist Priya Ramani. His lawsuit names Ms Ramani as the sole accused and says she "intentionally put forward malicious, fabricated and salacious" allegations to harm his goodwill and reputation.
The journalist "willfully, deliberately, intentionally and maliciously defamed" him on "completely false, frivolous, unjustifiable and scandalous grounds," the minister has alleged.
Ms Ramani said "truth and the absolute truth are my only defence" and asserted she was ready to fight the case.
"MJ Akbar seeks to silence through intimidation and harassment. Those who have spoken against Akbar have done so at great risk to personal and professional lives," she said in a statement.
On Sunday, after returning from a foreign trip, Mr Akbar had made it clear he would contest the allegations of sexual misconduct rather than resign.
"Accusation without evidence has become a viral fever among some sections," said Mr Akbar, 67, in his first detailed response to the allegations that exploded while he was away and provoked calls for his sacking. He implied a link to the upcoming general election.
The former editor of newspapers like The Telegraph and the Asian Age was named by Ms Ramani in a tweet on October 8. She said MJ Akbar was the man she had written about in a magazine article a year ago, when the Harvey Weinstein scandal in the US set off an avalanche of #MeToo allegations.
After Ms Ramani named him, more women posted stories against Mr Akbar.
The editor-turned-minister returned to work today and attended meetings as many journalists threatened to boycott his events and Congress workers protested outside his home.
Mr Akbar is among the highest-profile figures so far to face accusations in the #MeToo movement in India. Several powerful men from media, entertainment and the arts have been caught in the allegations.
Asked about the allegations, the ruling BJP said today: "It is not about agreeing or disagreeing. He has presented his version."
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