Crowdfunding platforms that Saket Gokhale and others like Kanhaiya Kumar, Dr Kafeel Khan used have gone missing mysteriously

by crypto journalist

— Consider reading the article Crowdfunding platforms that Saket Gokhale and others like Kanhaiya Kumar, Dr Kafeel Khan used have gone missing mysteriously on OpIndia website —

One of the platforms used by TMC leader Saket Gokhale to raise funds for his ‘sustenance’ as he filed Rs 10 RTI full time while not holding on to a regular day job, was ‘OurDemocracy.in’. In November 2019, Gokhale tweeted a link to his crowdfunding platform asking people to cough up money because he chose to give up his ‘cushy job’ to ‘fight the BJP/RSS’, which he usually did with filing frivolous RTIs which cost Rs 10. He urged other Modi haters to assemble and pay him so he can pay his bills and not have to take up a regular job.

However, the crowdfunding campaign is now unreachable and has vanished mysteriously. In fact, not just the campaign, but the entire website is now unreachable.

ourdemocracy page not accessible

As of February 2020, barely 3 months since he started the campaign, Gokhale had already collected over Rs 20 lakh from other Modi haters.

Gokhale on crowdfunding

Gokhale had accepted that he had collected over Rs 22 lakh. He had then claimed he would be roping in more people to help him file Rs 10 RTIs to cover their basic living expenses. Turns out, OurDemocracy crowdfunding platform was not giving the total figure of the amount raised. So those who contributed did not quite know how much Gokhale had already raised.

What is amusing is that the platform, which has now mysteriously disappeared, was also used by then CPI leader (and now Congress leader) Kanhaiya Kumar, Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi Marlena and even Dr Kafeel Khan, who is the prime accused in the 2017 Gorakhpur oxygen crisis case.

OurDemocracy, Crowdnewsing and curious Congress connection

OpIndia dug a little deeper into the crowdfunding platform and found some curious connections. Former NDTV journalist, Bilal Zaidi, who had also worked with channels such as Times Now and WION, started the platform ‘Crowdnewsing’ with one Anand Mangnale, an online crowdfunding platform for independent journalists. This was back in 2017.

However, just before the 2019 general elections, they decided to expand the platform and changed it to ‘ourdemocracy’ and provided the platform even to politicians like Kanhaiya Kumar, Atishi Marlena and unemployed individuals like Saket Gokhale who had quit their jobs for filing RTIs full time.

When Saket joined TMC, he was lauded by the cofounder of OurDemocracy platform.

Other notable people who have used “OurDemocracy” platform are Congress leader and Independent MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mewani, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and former JNU student and protestor Shehla Rashid, who had used Crowdnewsing, the pilot version of OurDemocracy.

Now, Crowdnewsing as well as OurDemocracy platforms are both unreachable and defunct. And while these platforms have been inaccessible for months now, the social media handle of OurDemocracy, has still not put out any public message explaining why the platform is inaccessible. Last tweet on OurDemocracy’s verified Twitter account was on June 24, 2021 asking to donate to a campaign by Dr Kafeel Khan, while Crowdnewsing’s last tweet was on 10 June 2019, where it shared a clean-chit given to itself and Shehla Rashid by a self-proclaimed fact-checking website in an old controversy about misuse of funds.

Interestingly, Shehla Rashid was also accused of misappropriating the funds she had collected in name of Kathua rape and murder victim on the platform which was later used by Gokhale. Media reports had claimed that though lakhs of rupees were collected in the name of helping the family, the funds never reached them. Rashid had denied the allegations and later stated that the money was delayed because the family did not have a joint bank account and PAN.

What is more curious here is that Anand Mangnale, the cofounder of Crowdnewsing as well as OurDemocracy, had planted himself in WhatsApp groups in January 2020 during the violence that took place in JNU where he appeared to be coordinating the violence that was taking place on the campus.

This message is from a WhatsApp group called ‘Unity Against Left’ – I’ve edited out the group because of privacy laws on showing numbers, but the operative message retained : “main gate par kuch karna hai” against those who “support JNU” #JNUViolence pic.twitter.com/asXyRlfrsK

— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) January 5, 2020

Anand was seen asking members of the group that some people in support of JNU are coming to the main gate, should we do something there? The chilling message was from a group called ‘Unity against Left’, thereby implying that the sender of the message was ‘against Left’ and hence by default ABVP, the students arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The number which Barkha Dutt inadvertently shared on Twitter belonged to Anand Mangnale. A Google search of the same number revealed it was the same number Congress had used for a crowdfunding campaign.

Anand’s number on Congress campaigns

That page has now been taken off. Anand Mangnale has previously worked with TMC’s poll strategist Prashant Kishore, who had earlier worked as strategist for ex-Congress President Rahul Gandhi in 2016 ahead of Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections. OpIndia could not independently verify whether Mangnale was part of team for Rahul Gandhi’s image makeover.

Anand Mangnale

Anand Mangnale had then admitted to having ‘infiltrated’ a WhatsApp group to ‘keep students safe’.

To conclude, one ‘journalist’ Bilal Zaidi gets together with Anand Mangnale, who worked with TMC’s Prashant Kishor, and the duo start a ‘crowdfunding’ website crowdnewsing in 2017. In 2019, they expand it and make it ‘ourdemocracy.in’, the crowdfunding platform is used by Modi-haters like Saket Gokhale, Jignesh Mewani, Kanhaiya Kumar, Shehla Rashid, Manish Sisodia, Atishi Marlena, Dr Kafeel Khan and others which gives legitimacy to the platform. Of these at least two people are accused of not being transparent in the money raised by them.

Now, suddenly both the platforms are not reachable. OpIndia has reached out to Bilal Zaidi, cofounder of Crowdnewsing as well as OurDemocracy. We shall update the report once we hear back from him.

This content was originally published here.

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