Lords inquiry launched into Tory peer accused of bullying journalist

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Authorities in the House of Lords have launched an investigation into another Tory peer, Rami Ranger, the Guardian has learned, after a freelance journalist accused him of a campaign of intimidation and harassment.

Poonam Joshi, a freelance journalist and women’s rights campaigner, has investigated Lord Ranger over his links to a controversial Indian guru, details of which were revealed by the Observer newspaper earlier this month.

Ranger told the Observer he regretted inviting a guru’s representative to the House of Lords, but he responded to Joshi with a salvo of abuse on Twitter and WhatsApp, which the Commissioner for Standards is investigating. Lords. Ranger sues Joshi for defamation.

The inquiry comes just weeks after the Lords launched an inquiry into Tory sister Michelle Mone, after the Guardian revealed she and her children received £29million in profits from government contracts during the Covid pandemic.

Joshi told the Guardian: ‘I have been targeted by Mr Ranger for weeks… Lord Ranger has long been seen as a veteran statesman within the British Asian community who has never been criticized in any way whether it be. So to be questioned, especially by a journalist who also happens to be an Indian woman, is considered an “affront” in our community. »

Ranger said: “I served court documents for defamation against [Joshi] and therefore I cannot comment now. I will provide my response to the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards in due course.

The Lords Commissioner for Standards did not comment.

A 2012 photograph of Indian guru Nityananda, who is on the run after being accused of rape. Photograph: Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images

Ranger is a major Tory donor, having given the party £1.5million through individual donations and through his consumer goods company, Sun Mark. He is an influential figure in the British Indian community, helped found the Hindu Forum of Britain and was patron of the Conservative Friends of India.

In October, Ranger helped organize a glamorous Diwali event at the House of Lords, which Joshi attended. There was also Atmadayaki Nithya – Atmadaya, as she is commonly known – the British representative of Nithyananda, a Hindu guru with millions of followers who is on the run after being accused of raping a follower and kidnapping children.

Atmadaya described the allegations against Nithyananda as “false and part of a campaign of religious persecution by extremist anti-Hindu elements in the Indian government”.

Ranger told the Observer, “If I had known, I would never have attended an event where such disreputable characters were being promoted.”

But he took a different tone with Joshi. After confronting her with her concerns, he subjected her to a barrage of critical tweets and WhatsApp messages.

Among them, he tweeted the unsubstantiated claim that her husband was a domestic abusercalled her “such a wicked woman” and a “total disgrace”, called her “the embodiment of dirt and trash”and threatened to take her to court, warning her: “I’ll teach you a lesson.”

He also spoke with her on WhatsApp and during their conversations, which was seen by the Guardian, told her she ‘showed a very poor upbringing’, called her ‘jealous and vindictive’ and compared herself to “your father trying to make sense of you”.

Ranger has now launched a High Court libel case against Joshi in which he accuses her of promoting a “false narrative” against him.

This is not the first time Ranger has been accused of demeaning behavior towards young women. At a labor appeals tribunal earlier this year, a judge upheld a ruling that Ranger harassed and discriminated against a woman who complained of sexual harassment at her company.

The court heard that in a phone call recorded in Punjabi, the peer called his employee Ramandeep Kaur a “stupid girl” and a “bastard”. Ranger disputed the translation of the conversation, saying instead that he referred to her as “a cheeky girl”.

Additional reporting by Henry Dyer

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