India has always had its share of conmen/women masquerading as activists and do-gooders, particularly those elected to high office, but the curious case of 8-year-old ‘environmental activist’ Licypriya Kangujam is certainly sui generis.
While Twitter says you’ve to be at least 13-year-old to use its services, 8-year-old Licypriya Kangujam, whose account is handled by her ‘guardian’, was recently in the news for turning down PM Modi’s invitation to handle his account for #SheInspiresUs.
The 8-year-old's Twitter handle also lashed out at the Congress.
She wrote to the grand old party after it voiced their support: “Ok @INCIndia. You feel sympathy for me. It’s ok. Let’s comes to the point. How many of your MPs going to put up my demands in the ongoing Parliament Session both in Lok Sabha & Rajya Sabha? I also don’t want you to use my name just for twitter campaign? Who is listening my voice?”
She further wrote: “And also, Dear politicians & political parties, I don’t need appreciation for this. Instead ask your MPs to rise my voice at the ongoing Parliament session. Never attempt to use me for your political gains and propagandas. don’t appreciate it. I’m not in your favour. Your MPs also dumb, deaf and blind. Nothing more or less by Government ruling MPs. This is complete failure. Act Now. #ClimateCrisis”
Reacting to her diatribe, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had written: “. Dear Licypriya, your voice is ours too. For three years now I have been Convening a RoundTable on Air Pollution, calling for a National CleanAir Policy. @incIndia held extensive consultations on the environment prior to the 2019 election; our stand is in our manifesto. We will!”
Incidentally, Licypriya had become a ‘Twitter liberal hero’ when she turned down PM Modi’s offer to be part of the #SheInspiresUs Initiatvie for Women’s Day.
She became news after claims of going to represent India as speaker addressing the UN in the 6th session of the Global Platform for disaster Risk reduction in Geneva last year.
Well, the story behind Licypriya's climate change movement isn't that sweet.
Licypriya is the daughter of Dr Kangujam Karnajit, a self-proclaimed youth leader from Manipur and founder of Club 25 International, Manipur unit.
Earlier, police had arrested Kangujam on the charges of fraud, assault and breach of trust.
What are the cases against him?
An investigation of this case in May 2015 showed that Kangujam had conned the state and foreign dignitaries by using the UNESCO flag on his car.
He had allegedly duped foreign delegates by promising travel allowances reimbursement, collected funds for the Nepal earthquake, and also tried to implicate a cabinet minister who had sexual harassment charges against him.
What's the truth?
An 8-year-old leading a climate change movement, however, raised questions of its legitimacy. That's when Paojel Chaoba, a Manipur-based journalist began the investigation along with journalist Chitra Ahanthem from Imphal Free Press.
Narrating the story behind the investigation, Chitra Ahanthem told The Free Press Journal, "I had no idea who the girl was then and that a 7-year-old with roots in Manipur was going places. Felt something was fishy because there was no mention of her parents or school. That led me to dig up the source of the story."
"Kangujam Karnajit was going around in a vehicle with a UNESCO flag and got the then CM and other ministers to be present for a Global Youth Summit in Imphal in 2014. That sort of gave him legitimacy and then he cheated a lot of people."
Well, the story originated from a press release sent out by the International Youth Committee signed by the General Secretary Dr Hilda Jacob, Chitra said. They, however, could not trace who this person was and it was later found that "it was fronted by Kangujam Karnajit," Chitra added.
Chitra further said that "there are similarities in the rise of Kangujam Karnajit alias Dr KK Singh and the daughter... Both do attend conferences, pose with VIPs and use those visuals to great impact. Both have awards to their names, some from organizations you can't trace properly."
After the case against Licypriya's father was brought to light, the man disappeared all of a sudden. "Then the man disappeared till the breaking news last year that the child activist everyone is talking about now was to go the UN event I mentioned earlier. Beyond seeing that both had the same surname 'Kangujam' we had no proof they were related," Chitra said.
Speaking about Licypriya's invitation to speak at the UN, Chitra said, "All you need to do is pay the registration fees and attend the session."
Well, while Licypriya and her father who earlier claimed to be at an UN event in the headquarters now get offers to speak at various events, says Chitra.
After the claims of her father being a con man, Licypriya went on to share a link of the United Nation's International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and showed an invitation cum confirmation letter that has been signed by Elina Palm, Co-ordinator of Global Platform, UNISDR.
Licypriya's invitation to the UNISDR was first published by the Guwhati-based media outlet on the basis of a press note by International Youth Committe (IYC) that claimed the 8-year-old has been selected to address the crowd at the UN on May 13-17, 2019.
Manipur's Chief Minister had earlier tweeted about Licypriya going to the UN event but later deleted it. "In fact, the CM of Manipur who had himself retweeted the news of the child going to the UN event only deleted his retweet. There was no police investigations to find out the whereabouts of KK Singh."
The talks of the child ended after the UN clarified that she was never invited at the headquarters to address a session.
Soon after the news of Licypriya being a fraud surfaced online, other journalists and people having knowledge about the matter took to Twitter and shared Licypriya's story.
The sudden deification of the 8-year-old raises several questions, both about the media's gullibility to fall for a tall tale and how a child's image might be used to further personal agendas.