‘Misleading narrative’: India rebuts UN rights experts criticism over Rana Ayyub
NEW DELHI: India on Monday described as “baseless and unwarranted” a statement by United Nations human rights experts that journalist Rana Ayyub is facing misogynistic attacks and judicial harassment, and said such a “misleading narrative” harms the UN’s reputation.
In a statement issued in Geneva, Irene Khan, special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, earlier said that “relentless misogynistic and sectarian attacks online” against Rana Ayyub must be investigated by Indian authorities and the “judicial harassment against her brought to an end at once”.
Soon after, India’s permanent mission to the UN in Geneva said in a tweet: “Allegations of so-called judicial harassment are baseless & unwarranted. India upholds the rule of law, but is equally clear that no one is above the law. We expect SRs to be objective & accurately informed. Advancing a misleading narrative only tarnishes @UNGeneva’s reputation.”
People familiar with the matter said the matter was followed up with a note verbale – or unsigned diplomatic correspondence – from the Indian permanent mission. The issue was also taken up by the Indian side with the UN office in Geneva, they said, without giving details.
On February 10, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached funds worth ₹1.77 crore from bank accounts of Rana Ayyub, alleging that donations raised by her for relief work through an online crowd-funding platform were laundered and used for personal expenses.
A probe against Ayyub was launched in September 2021, based on a first information report (FIR) by Ghaziabad police, in which the complainant – Vikas Sankrityayan – had accused her of illegally acquiring public money.
In a statement issued on February 11, Rana Ayyub refuted all allegations of misappropriating funds received as donations and shared details of how the money was raised on crowd-funding platform Ketto and spent thereafter.
The UN human rights experts said in their statement Rana Ayyub “continues to be the victim of intensifying attacks and threats online” by far-right nationalist groups. They contended these attacks were a result of her “reporting on issues affecting minority Muslims in the country, her criticism of the government for its handling of the pandemic and her comments on the recent ban on hijabs in schools and colleges in Karnataka”.
They said she was “maliciously targeted with anonymous death and rape threats by organised groups online”. The lack of condemnation and proper investigation by the government, coupled with the legal harassment, has “served to falsely legitimise the attacks and attackers and further endangered her safety”, they contended.
UN human rights experts have written to the Indian government on a number of occasions in the past to express their concern in relation to the threats against and legal harassment of Ayyub.
The special rapporteurs are part of the special procedures of the UN Human Rights Council, and act as independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address country- specific situations.