Tuesday, June 8 2021

Dive In

I believe in all honesty and sincerity that even if my endeavor inspires, informs and changes a small collective of persons in understanding and accepting the LGBTQIA+ community, I would have achieved in delivering justice in its true spirit against discrimination and towards inclusivity.

That’s from a groundbreaking judgement delivered by Justice Anand Venkatesh of the Madras High Court—in a petition filed by a lesbian couple seeking protection from police and parental harassment. The Court went further and issued a series of guidelines aimed at protecting LGBTQ+ persons—which include a ban on ‘cure therapy’ and a call to train police. LiveLaw has more details on the ruling.

Big Story

The father, the child & a grand scam

The TLDR: Nine-year old Licypriya Kangujam has long been hailed as the ‘Greta Thunberg’ of India. But the arrest of her father reveals that she may have been a pawn (or participant?) in his con game.


Remind me about Licypriya…

She is a nine-year-old climate activist from Manipur who first caught the media’s attention when she staged a vigil outside the Parliament in 2019—calling for stricter climate change laws. Inevitable comparisons were drawn to Greta Thunberg—who started out doing exactly the same thing, which later became the Fridays for Future school strike. 


Soon after, Kangujam was invited to address world leaders at the United Nations Climate Conference in December 2019 in Madrid (watch her speech here). She was again hailed as ‘Greta of the Global South’ in the Spanish press. And her rhetoric has been remarkably similar:


“Why should I come here? Why I should speak here? I have to go to my school. I have to read my books. I have to play. I have to study. But our leaders all have ruined my childhood life and my beautiful future. This is not fair!”


But Kangujam has also pushed back against the comparison, saying: "If you call me Greta of India, you are not covering my story… I have my own identity, story.” While not quite as world-famous as Thunberg, she has travelled to 32 countries, given many TEDx talks, and received a special mention on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.


Point to note: She’s also done a Thunberg in turning down honours or invites to make a point. For example: Last year, she refused the government’s invitation to be a part of the Prime Minister’s #SheInspiresUs social media campaign, tweeting: “Dear @narendramodi Ji, Please don’t celebrate me if you are not going to listen to my voice.”


So what’s this about her father?

Kanarjit Kangujam Singh was arrested on May 30th on charges of forgery and cheating. The arrest, however, turned the spotlight on a long career as a con artist. Singh is the chairman of a dubious organisation known as the International Youth Conference—and the organiser of summits with lofty names, such as Global Youth Meet or World Youth General Assembly. And here’s how his scams typically worked in the past:


The ‘big man’ con: Singh projects a larger than life image—most of it based on forgeries and outright lies. 


  • For example, he used to travel in a white Maruti 1000 car with a flag post claiming that he is a representative of the United Nations. 
  • His main modus operandi is to collect funds and fees in the name of organising youth summits or relief organisations and pocket the money. 
  • Singh often left behind a long trail of unpaid bills to vendors for these so-called summits—and he once tried to sell a building where he was a tenant using forged papers. 
  • Singh also duped several self-help groups, hotels and individuals of Rs 1.9 million (19 lakh) in the guise of organising a Global Youth Meet in Imphal—where he presented himself as the director of a so-called ‘UNESCO Youth Foundation’.
  • All of which finally caught up with him when he was charged of swindling in 2015, and was declared an “absconder” when he went on the run. 


The ‘precocious kid’ con: After Singh fled Manipur on interim bail—along with his family—he set up International Youth Conference operations in Delhi, which is when his daughter rose to prominence as its protégé. But the shadow of lies dogged her image as well.  Singh claimed that his daughter had been invited to speak at a global UN session—which turned out to be a lie, and the evidence presented by Licypriya turned out to be a forgery. Also this:


“Several journalists and activists have also alleged that several of the awards she has been conferred with—including the ‘Peace Award’ by the Global Peace Index—were actually handed out by organisations her father is associated with. The award was handed to her by Charles Allen, the Executive director of Institute for Economics & Peace, in a ceremony in the Maldives.  It later came to light that the same award was not conferred by the globally respected agency but that it’s Executive Director was invited to hand over the prize at the ceremony which was hosted by an NGO whose head was also a member of the NGO that her father fronted which is  International Youth Conference (IYC).”


The arrest: Singh has been finally arrested on charges that he swindled a number of students—including a Nepali and four Afghans. He took Rs 30,000 per head to attend an exchange program in Europe, which never took place and the money was never refunded. The older 2016 court case will be reopened as well.


So Licypriya is a fraud too?


In today’s edition

Headlines That Matter

  • A hunger strike in Lakshadweep
  • Jeff Bezos is flying into space
  • Naomi Osaka pulls out… again
  • An odd Pakistan-China collab


A list of intriguing things

  • Famous people’s iris close-ups to be sold as…NFTs?!
  • Why do cuttings of the pink princess philodendron plant sell for a ridiculous $100?

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