India's Minister of State for External Affairs returned to New Delhi on Sunday amid a wave of sexual assault allegations against him by at least a dozen women and widespread demands for his resignation.
Mobashar Jawed "MJ" Akbar was on an official visit to Nigeria when several female journalists accused him of sexual harassment during his days as a newspaper editor before entering politics.
"There will be a statement later," Akbar told reporters at the airport when asked about the allegations and his future in the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The accusations against Akbar surfaced at a time when the so-called #MeToo movement has gained momentum in the Asian country and put the spotlight on harassment in the Indian film industry – popularly known as Bollywood – and the media.
The first allegation against Akbar was leveled by journalist Priya Ramani, who shared on social media an article written a year ago in which she recounted how a "talented" editor invited her into his hotel room for a supposed job interview, subsequently revealing that the journalist was none other than the current junior foreign minister.
"You're an expert on obscene phone calls, texts, inappropriate compliments and not taking no for an answer. 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," Ramani wrote in the article.
One of the first reactions from the government has come from the former information and broadcasting minister and current minister for textiles, Smriti Irani, who said on Friday that "anybody who's speaking out should be in no way victimized or mocked," although she added that the junior minister would be "better positioned to speak on this issue."
"I appreciate that the media is accosting his female colleagues but I think it is for the gentleman concerned to issue a statement, not for me, because I was personally not present there," Irani told reporters.
Several political parties have demanded Akbar's immediate resignation and an investigation into the case.