At the tender age of just nine-years-old, little Licypriya Kangujam from Manipur has become the young face of climate-change activism in India. Known often as the “Greta of India", a term that Kangujam has previously objected to, the minor activist has accused Delhi Police of detaining her and a fellow minor protester in New Delhi where she had been protesting against air pollution.
On Sunday, Kangujam and fellow activist Aarav Seth, 12, were protesting outside the Parliament House in Delhi when they were “briefly detained" by Delhi Police. The incident was revealed in a series of tweets by Kangujam’s Twitter handle.
Why was 9-year-old Licypriya Kangujam detained by Delhi Police?
Kangujam and Aarav Seth had been holding placards and protesting against air pollution outside Parliament House in New Delhi on Sunday. According to tweets posted by Kangujam, police soon cornered them and escorted them to a police vehicle. Both she and Seth were detained from the protest site for nearly 40 minutes before being escorted away to an undisclosed location in the police car.
Did Delhi Police arrest Licypriya Kangujam and Aarav Seth?
No, Kangujam and Seth were not arrested. But as per reports and Kangujam’s own tweets, the police dropped them off later and they ended up in Jantar Mantar to continue their protest. The activist says that the cops first tried to take them to Parliament House Police Station but eventually let them off with a warning that if they protest outside Parliament House again, they will be arrested. In further tweets, Kangujam said that while the cops treated her as their “daughter", they did warn her not to protest on that spot again.
What was Kangujam’s crime?
It seems that the minors were detained by the cops as they had been protesting at a high-security zone. But Kangujam says that she protests outside Parliament every week. “My only mistake was I protested in the most highly restricted security zone of India. Anyway, they released me without any conditions after sometimes in Jantar Mantar. But usually, I protest every week there as a routine campaign to give awareness to the people on climate change," a tweet from her account read. The incident has caused outrage on social media with many calling out Delhi Police for detaining minors for protesting against air pollution.
Who is Licypriya Kangujam?
Kangujam started environmental activism in when she was just seven years old in 2018 (the same year as Greta Thunberg began her now globally popular “Strike for Climate" campaign). Since then, she has received the honorary Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Children’s Award, a World Children Peace Prize as well as an India Peace Prize. Kangujam’s resolve against environmental hazards and her dedicated agitation for climate action has not only earned her a name but also respect in the fraternity.
Not new to controversy
Despite her young age, the Manipuri activist has managed to ruffle many feathers in the short span of her public career as a climate change activist. Earlier in the year in March, Kangujam had turned down an honour that had been bestowed upon her and many other women under the ‘SheInspiredUs’ campaign for Women’s’ Day 2020. But the young activist decided to turn down the honour because the PM doesn’t “listen" to the young activist’s voice. In a reply to the given honour, young Licypriya said, “Dear Modi ji, please don’t celebrate me if you are not going to listen to my voice," further adding, “Thank you for selecting me amongst the inspiring women of the country under your initiative #SheInspiresUs. After thinking many times, I decided to turn down this honour".
In September 2020, Kangujam staged a protest outside the official residence of Union Education Minister Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ in Delhi, requesting him to postpone the upcoming JEE and NEET examinations, amid the rising cases of Covid-19 in the country. She called it an “injustice to students".