Saket Gokhale is in the news. No, not because of his PIL and RTI activism, but because a like-minded Twitter user, Hussain Haidry claimed, “Saket Gokhale has the audacity to ask for accountability every day as he completely denies for details of the money he has raised from crowdfunding and spent mostly for personal use. Apparently, the amount is over Rs. 76 lacs in the span of a year!”
The allegations against Saket Gokhale prompt us to open a can of worms- the authenticity of crowdfunding campaigns.
Crowdfunding campaigns often make you emotional. They make you feel that you are contributing to a cause and you just can’t stop yourself while donating your hard-earned money. But is your money going where you want it to go?
BLM founder branded a fraud
Black Lives Matter (BLM) wasn’t just an agitation, rather it was a template for the global left. Far-left activists borrowed heavily from BLM. They borrowed free speech extremism that involves passing off rioting, arson and looting as an expression of free speech. They also adopted the idea of cancelling national heroes with propaganda about their self-styled version of social justice.
BLM was also in news because of the movement’s co-founder Patrisse Cullors. The 37-year old co-founder, a self-professed ‘trained Marxist’ purchased a three-bedroom, three-bathroom house in Topanga Canyon. The $1.4 million house also came with a separate guest house and expansive backyard.
It remains unclear if Cullors was paid by BLM because the movement’s finances remain opaque.
She cannot be entirely blamed. I mean all of us has an inner desire to live in a lavish bungalow right? But some people did have a problem with this. Local organisers told Politico that they saw little or no money and were forced to crowdfund to stay afloat. Some organisers were barely able to afford gas or housing. And BLM was popular around the world. It received international donations. Where did all the money go?
The curious case of a 9-year old ‘climate activist’
Earlier this year, nine-year-old Licypriya Kangujam’s fugitive father, Kanarjit Kangujam, also known as Dr KK Singh, was arrested in a joint operation by the Delhi and Manipur Police. The kid’s father had a bounty of Rs. 1 lakh on his head, and Manipur Police was actively looking for him across the country. In the name of the International Youth Committee (IYC), Singh defrauded several national and international students by seeking funds from them.
By projecting his 9-year-old daughter as the face of a national and international ‘climate activism’ campaign, Kanarjit Kangujam duped nearly 100 children from 12 countries under the garb of activism as per a Vice report. The fraud amount is estimated to be approximately $44,685, just from fees collected from students.
ISIS suspects resorted to crowdfunding
And your concern shouldn’t be just limited to the utilisation of the money that you have raised. I mean what if your money ends up in the hands of a terror group in Syria?
Well, I am not joking. As per a 2019 report by the Independent, women detained in a refugee camp for ISIS families in Syria raised thousands of pounds through an online crowdfunding campaign. The campaign was called “Justice for Sisters”, and was launched with the help of a German intermediary. It solicited donations from sympathisers in Europe.
A similar campaign was also launched by al-Qaeda supporters based in Idlib, northern Syria, in January 2019. The “Free the Female Prisoners” was explicitly aimed at freeing women from a refugee camp and smuggling them to rebel-held areas.
The campaign had announced, “Glad tidings! Your brothers in this campaign have managed – with Allah’s help and the collaboration of various parties and money from altruists – to secure the release of an immigrant sister from al-Hol refugee camp and ensure she reached liberated areas”.
So, you should always be very careful while donating money in a crowdfunding campaign. It is very easy to get carried away when there is a lot of propaganda around a particular cause and a narrative is being pushed in very aggressively. But it’s your money after all and you are the one who ought to ensure that it doesn’t end up getting embezzled.