The well-known British Asian peer and Tory donor Rami Ranger has been asked to apologize and attend a behavioural course after he was found by the House of Lords Standards Commissioner to have bullied and harassed the London-based female journalist Poonam Joshi.
The Standards Commissioner Akbar Khan KC, in a report published on Tuesday (13 June), found that Lord Ranger, had broken the House of Lords code of conduct with a barrage of Tweets and WhatsApp messages sent to Ms Joshi.
Lord Ranger, 76, is the founder of the import export firm Sun Mark Ltd., and is among the most prominent members of the British Asian community and was made a peer in Prime Minister Theresa May’s 2019 resignation honours list. He has also donated nearly £1.5 million to the Conservative Party.
The interaction between Lord Ranger and Ms Joshi had begun prior to a Diwali event hosted by the former at the House of Lords in October 2022.
Ms Joshi was among those on Twitter calling out the Hindu Forum of Britain (HFB) – which describes itself as an “umbrella” organization for Hindu groups in the UK – for what many perceived to be its less-than-robust reaction to the disturbances between Hindus and Muslims, in August and September 2022.
Ms Joshi had also previously criticized the HFB for its divisive views after its co-founder and head Ms Trupti Patel had brazenly called for the barring of Labour supporters from the organization.
It’s thought that Lord Ranger became involved and started criticizing those who were questioning the relevance of the HFB and, in particular, Ms Patel.
According to the lengthy findings of the Standards Commissioner’s report, Lord Ranger then invited Ms Joshi to the Diwali celebration to reconcile matters between her, Ms Patel and the HfB. The promised reconciliation didn’t materialize and Ms Joshi alleges that Lord Ranger shouted at her and insulted her, asking her to “know her place” and to “not be too big for your shoes”.
Days later Ms Joshi questioned both Lord Ranger and the HfB on Twitter about the presence of representatives of the Indian cult leader Nithyananda, who is currently sought by Indian authorities on charges of rape and child abduction and who is believed to be hiding in Central America.
Relations are then said to have deteriorated between Lord Ranger and Ms Joshi, leading to the latter making a formal complaint to the House of Lords Standards Commissioner and Lord Ranger suing Ms Joshi for defamation at the High Court.
A Campaign of Harassment and Bullying
In his final report, Mr Khan found that Lord had run a “campaign of harassment and bullying against Ms Joshi”.
The House of Lords Code of Conduct describes bullying as ‘an abuse or misuse of power that can make a person feel vulnerable, upset, undermined, humiliated, denigrated or threatened.’
While acknowledging that Ms Joshi also did not conduct herself in the manner which would be required as a journalist and a public figure, the Commissioner found that,
“There was an imbalance of power between Lord Ranger and Ms Joshi by reason of Lord Ranger’s authority, his public position as a member of the House of Lords, his wealth and his social standing, and his connections and associations with other senior political figures. He was acutely aware of this imbalance of power and abused it persistently undermining, humiliating and denigrating Ms Joshi.”
He cited several Tweets that Lord Ranger sent to Ms Joshi in response to the latter raising questions about the presence of the Nithyananda cult leader’s representatives at the House of Lords and the Hindu Forum of Britain, including:
“Who is asking you? Who has given you the authority to insult others who do not appease you? You are showing your poor upbringing by bullying”.
In another Tweet, Lord Ranger stated,
“Use your real name. Shameless Poonam Joshi pride and joy of the Joshi family, no decent job or business, living day-to-day”; a reference to the fact that Ms Joshi is a freelance journalist.
Lord Ranger also at one point described Ms Joshi as a “Presstitute”, a slur used by right-wing nationalists in India against journalists who are critical of the ruling Hindu-nationalist BJP.
In a further Tweet, including a photograph of Lord Ranger with the former Home Secretary Priti Patel, he says:
“I am in Parliament and you are not. Please tag the entire Parliament. They know me and no one knows you”.
Using “Asian Culture” as a defence.
When questioned as to whether such behavior was appropriate for a Parliamentarian, Lord Ranger cited “Asian culture” for his language and tone, suggesting that it was acceptable behavior within the Asian community.
In his findings, Mr Khan concludes that this demonstrates “precisely the power imbalance that he used to humiliate Ms Joshi.
He adds that Lord Ranger’s response about Asian Culture “seems to suggest that Lord Ranger believes that showing respect and valuing everyone is universal but is reserved for those have attained age, experience and social status, among other things, such as himself, and if such ‘respect’ is not accorded then it is entirely appropriate to attack that individual on the basis of their upbringing”.
The Commissioner also cites Lord Ranger’s decision to demand that the Indian Journalists Association (IJA) – an organization of which Ms Joshi is a member – to expel Ms Joshi as a further example of his misuse of power. In one email to the IJA, Lord Ranger describes Ms Joshi as a “cancer” that “needed to be cut out”.
When questioned by the Commissioner about the email, Lord Ranger responded: “Well, you are just picking my words. You know, I think she is a cancer because she has not spread anything good anywhere. You can make her a heroine and bring me down. It’s up to your judgment.”
An Imbalance of Power
The Commissioner points to the fact that Lord Ranger’s Tweets at Ms Joshi came from his personal handle which clearly states ‘Lord Rami Ranger CBE’ while his email correspondence to the IJA was signed off as ‘Lord Rami Ranger, House of Lords’ making it clear, the Commissioner says, what Lord Ranger “considered to be his elevated public status compared to Ms Joshi”.
The Commissioner also found in Lord Ranger’s’ conduct a “clear pattern of behavior involving the use of language that belittles and undermines Ms Joshi”. Remarks such as “know your place” and “don’t try to be too big for your shoes”, the Commissioner finds, “are entirely consistent with the language and tone used in many of his tweets”.
All of this put together, the Commissioner found, amounted to a sustained campaign of bullying.
Remarkably relations between Lord Ranger and Ms Joshi had been entirely professional prior to October 2022. Ms Joshi, in her capacity as the UK correspondent for India’s ABP News, had interviewed Lord Ranger as part of a TV package.
After the Diwali event however, the report found, “many of Lord Ranger’s tweets about Ms Joshi chose to cast aspersions on her background, status, upbringing, material wealth and her contribution to society”.
In one Tweet, Lord Ranger also chose to spread the falsehood that Ms Joshi had reported her husband – a fellow journalist – for domestic abuse, despite Ms Joshi repeatedly informing Lord Ranger that it was a vicious lie spread by a woman who had an injunction brought against in India by Ms Joshi.
The Commissioner says:
“I find that Lord Ranger’s conduct was unwanted by Ms Joshi and that the purpose or effect of his conduct was to violate Ms Joshi’s dignity and humiliate her”.
“I further find that Lord Ranger’s deliberate and repeated disparaging comments demonstrates that his conduct was intentional”, the Commissioner found.
It’s also believed that Lord Ranger’s defamation suit against Ms Joshi has been withdrawn following an amicable settlement and reciprocal apologies which have been included in the Standards Commissioner’s final report.