- Priya Ramani has been named as sole accused in MJ Akbar's defamation suit
- 20 Journalists - 19 from 'The Asian Age'- have agreed to testify in court
- MJ Akbar has refused to resign in the wake of allegations against him
Union Minister MJ Akbar's defamation suit names only one of the multiple women who have accused him of sex harassment, but 20 women journalists have pledged to testify in court against him.
The journalists, who worked with 'The Asian Age' -- MJ Akbar was editor of the newspaper for 15 years - put out a joint statement in support of their colleague Priya Ramani, the first to call out the minister for sexually harassing her during his years as an editor. She has been named as the sole accused in his lawsuit and has been accused by him of "intentionally putting forward fabricated allegations" to harm his reputation.
"What Akbar has demonstrated through his legal actions is his refusal to introspect, acknowledge or atone for his actions that have caused immense pain and indeed harm to many women over the years. He himself, in the meanwhile, continues to enjoy enormous power and privilege as minister and Member of Parliament," the journalists' statement said.
The journalists have urged the court to hear their testimonies against MJ Akbar, claiming that some of them suffered sexual harassment while others witnessed it.
Priya Ramani, they said, not only spoke about her personal experience, but also lifted the lid on the culture of "casual misogyny, entitlement and sexual predation" that Akbar engendered and presided over at The Asian Age.
"Ramani is not alone in her fight. We would request the honourable court hearing the defamation case to also consider the testimonies of sexual harassment of some of us at the hands of the petitioner, as also of the other signatories who bore witness to this harassment," the journalists said in the statement.
The journalists include Meenal Baghel, Manisha Pande, Tushita Patel, Kanika Gahlaut, Suparna Sharma, Ramola Talwar Badam, Hoihnu Hauzel, Aisha Khan, Reshmu Chakraborty and Kushalrani Gulab. A journalist from Deccan Chronicle, Christina Francis, has also signed the statement.
Mr Akbar, 67, has been named in multiple accounts that have surfaced in the #MeToo movement that started in India after former actor Tanushree Dutta accused her co-star Nana Patekar of harassment during a film shoot 10 years ago.
The defiant editor-turned-minister has ignored calls for his resignation and on Monday filed a criminal defamation complaint against Ms Ramani.
The minister had arrived from a foreign tour a day before and issued a statement trashing the #MeToo allegations and commenting: "Accusations without evidence has become a viral fever."
Ms Ramani said she was ready to fight the defamation complaint, that "truth and the absolute truth is my only defence".