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New Delhi: Media bodies strongly condemned the ‘Bulli Bai’ app that ‘auctioned’ prominent Indian Muslim women – including journalists, saying it is a direct consequence of the police’s failure to act against previous ‘apps’ which made similar attempts.
In a strongly-worded statement, the Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) said the app, which was hosted on GitHub, amounts to “online sexual violence”, saying the ‘auction’ clearly promotes “the crimes of trafficking and sexual slavery, which GitHub purports to stand against”.
“This is not the first time that such bigoted misogynists have ‘auctioned’ Muslim women. It is regrettable and unacceptable that the Indian state and its agencies have taken no action against them despite repeated violations. Technology has been used as a weapon to humiliate, intimidate and terrorise Muslim women in the country multiple times, and ‘Digital India’ appears to have no concrete response aimed at bringing the perpetrators to book. No minister in the Union cabinet has questioned, let alone condemned, this online harassment, or pressed for action against the perpetrators” NWMI said.
The body also questioned the policies and ethics of GitHub, saying the platform, where the earlier ‘Sulli Deals’ app was also hosted in July 2021, “has evidently done nothing to ensure misuse of the platform to post material relating to sexual abuse, including child sexual abuse”.
“Initiatives like ‘Bulli Bai’ and ‘Sulli Deals’ are a reflection of both misogyny and the increasing Islamophobia that is spreading across the country with the tacit support of those in power. They are a symptom of the Hindutva agenda, which relegates people who belong to minority religions and marginalised castes to the status of second-class citizens. As usual, women are seen as easy targets that can be used to humiliate, intimidate and exercise control over such communities,” the statement adds.
NWMI said it stands in solidarity with the Muslim women who have been targeted by the app. It appreciated the preliminary action taken by the Mumbai and Delhi police but called for “more decisive and determined action that indicates zero tolerance for such criminal conduct”.
The Mumbai police have arrested a man and detained a women in the case.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) expressed shock and anger at the targeting of Muslim women through the app. “This is the second time that such a public ‘auction’ of Muslim women has taken place. Had the police identified the culprits behind the infamous ‘Sulli Deals’ that was online six months ago, this targeting and terrorising of Muslim women would not have been repeated,” the union said.
The statement noted that while Alt News had investigated the online threat months ago, going to great lengths to trace and identify some of the fake handles responsible for the outrageous app, no action was taken by the police.
“Nearly 100 women have been attacked. Most of them are professionals, including journalists (some are members of the DUJ), historians, politicians and pilots… The police and the courts must act now,” the DUJ statement said.