Friday, September 30, 2022

Bulli Bai: Malala among Muslim women listed on Indian app for auction


NEW DELHI: Around 100 Muslim women including Pakistani Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai were listed on an Indian app for auction as ‘Bulli Bai’ of the day.

The Muslim women listed on the app for auction are mostly from India whose photographs were taken without their consent and posted on the app for auction.

‘Bulli Bai’ was the second such attempt in less than a year following the ‘Sulli Deals’ in July in which almost 80 Muslim women were put on sale.

The notable women include Malala Yousafzai, Indian actress Shabana Azmi, Kashmiri journalist Quratulain Rehbar, a Mumbai lawyer Fatima Zohra Khan, a 65-year-old mother of disappeared student Najeeb Ahmed Fatima Nafees besides other journalists, activists and politicians.

bulli bai auction muslim women malala yousafzai indian app

Quratulain Rehbar, who had previously reported on the “Sulli Deals” auction in July last year, told Al Jazeera she was shocked to see her photograph on the app.

On January 1, Quratulain Rehbar, a journalist from Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), woke up to see herself listed for an “online auction”. Her photograph was sourced without her permission and uploaded on an app for “sale”.

“When I saw my photograph, my throat got heavy, I had goosebumps on my arms and I was numb. It was shocking and humiliating,” she said.

While there was no real sale involved, the online application – created on Microsoft-owned open software development site GitHub – was, according to Rehbar, intended “to degrade and humiliate vocal Muslim women”.

A journalist Mohammad Zubair, who works for fact-checking website AltNews, told Al Jazeera that both ‘Bulli’ and ‘Sulli’ are derogatory words used for Muslim women in local slang. “However, this time the Punjabi language was used in the ‘Bulli Bai’ interface along with English,” said Zubair.

The app was taken down on Saturday, with victims saying the interface of the GitHub extension on “Bulli Bai” was strikingly similar to the one used by “Sulli Deals”.

By Saturday evening, dozens of other Muslim women began posting their shock and outrage on social media after seeing their photographs and details on the app.

Among them was Ismat Ara, a journalist in the capital, New Delhi.

Ara filed a complaint on Saturday with the Delhi Police against “unknown people” for harassing and insulting Muslim women on social media “using doctored pictures in unacceptable and lewd context”.

Based on her complaint, a first information report (FIR) was registered by Delhi Police’s Cyber Crime Unit on Sunday, invoking various sections of the Indian Penal Code that pertain to promoting enmity on grounds of religion, threatening national integration and sexual harassment of women.

Following another complaint by Sidrah, whose photo also appeared on the app, a police case was also registered in India’s financial capital Mumbai against various Twitter handles and the “Bulli Bai” app developers.

However, Ara said she is not hopeful regarding the police investigation, her fears stemming from the fact that the probe in “Sulli Deals” has seen no arrests made even after six months.

Fatima Zohra Khan, a lawyer based in Mumbai whose name figured in both “Sulli” and “Bulli Bai” deals, had also filed a complaint with Mumbai police last year.

“We got no response from Twitter, GitHub and Go-Daddy [web hosting company] despite Mumbai Police themselves requesting them to reveal data. These websites refuse to share information unless a court warrant is produced,” she told Al Jazeera.

Police officials in New Delhi and Mumbai did not respond to Al Jazeera’s queries on the latest “auction”.

Another victim Nabiya Khan wrote, “I have been trying to gather some strength to write something about #BulliDeals. Just when I thought I had left the trauma of #SulliDeals behind me, it came to haunt us(me along with more than 112 Muslims Women) again with an updated version, as a new year present.”

Several Indian parliamentarians have raised the matter with the government, including Priyanka Chaturvedi, based in the western state of Maharashtra, home to Mumbai.

After her tweet calling out India’s IT minister to take “stern action” against “misogynistic and communal targeting of women”, the minister said GitHub had blocked the user responsible for hosting the site and the “police authorities are coordinating further action”.

“Police complaints were registered during the time of ‘Sulli deals’. However, no action was taken. That is the reason why these people feel emboldened,” Chaturvedi told Al Jazeera.


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