'Bulli Bai' Case: Mumbai Police Arrest Bengaluru Student, 18-Year-Old Woman from Uttarakhand

Vishal Jha changed his profile name several times and posed as a Sikh man on the app to confuse the victims, the police said.

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New Delhi: The Mumbai police have made the first arrest in the case of unknown persons uploading derogatory and doctored photographs to an app that targeted Muslim women. Vishal Jha, a 21-year-old student from Bengaluru, was detained on Monday and arrested on Tuesday. Subsequently, an 18-year-old woman from Uttarakhand was also arrested on Tuesday. The woman, the police claim, is the “mastermind”.

The police have confirmed that Jha and the woman from Uttarakhand are known to each other and have been in touch through different social media platforms. “She has been active on social media using different handles. We are questioning her,” a senior Mumbai crime branch officer told The Wire.

Jha, according to the police, changed his profile name at least thrice in the past week. The names, the police claim, were to confuse the victims. He used a fake identity, trying to project himself as a Sikh person from Punjab four days ago, the police said.

A Mumbai magistrate court on Tuesday evening granted custody of Jha to the police till January 10, for interrogation and search of his residence in Bengaluru.

The 18-year-old woman, who recently completed Class XII, was arrested from Rudrapur town in Uttarakhand. She was produced before a local magistrate in Udham Singh Nagar district for her transit remand to take her to Mumbai. If the remand is granted, she will be produced before a court in Mumbai on Wednesday, a senior official in the Mumbai crime branch confirmed to The Wire.

On January 1, news of an internet platform called ‘Bulli Bai’ spread on social media. This app appeared to recall the ‘Sulli Deals’ app which came up in July 2021. In both, prominent Muslim women were targeted.

The man, an engineering student, was been held by officers of the cyber police station of Mumbai Police’s Crime Branch, an Indian Express report said. He allegedly shared the content of the app through his Twitter handle, a senior IPS officer told the newspaper.

The Mumbai police have acted on an FIR filed on the basis on a complaint filed against the developers and people who shared the content by one of the women targeted by the app.

The complaint had sought an FIR under sections 153 (A) (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion), 153 (B) (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration), 295(A) (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage reli­gious feelings), 354 D (stalking), 509 (insulting modesty) and 500 (defamation) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 (transmitting obscene content in electronic form) of the IT Act.

In Delhi, a similar complaint has been filed by The Wire’s journalist Ismat Ara, who was one of the hundreds of women whose photographs were put up on the app, accompanied by derogatory comments.

As The Wire has reported, Ara’s complaint sought the registration of an FIR under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups on the grounds of religion), 153B (imputations prejudicial to national integration), 354A (sexual harassment), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 509 (words, sounds or gestures intending to insult the modesty of women), to be read with Sections 66 (sending grossly insensitive information through a computer resource) and 67 (sending lascivious or lewd matter) of the Information Technology (IT) Act.

Note: This piece was first published at 8:58 am on January 4, 2022 and was republished at 8.40 pm on the same day with new information.