The New Year opening hasn't always been good and being in the midst of testing times, our fashion of welcoming the New Year was highly restricted. We shared emotions and celebrations in our neighbourhoods and each state has had a unique style of welcoming 2022. But if there is one thing that would have been a nationwide stir and dismay besides the pandemic, it would be an awful and frightening incident, particularly for the women community, that had auctioned Muslim women.
Showcasing the growing cybercrime with an alarm of imminent countermeasure, a mobile app has sparked nationwide outrage after auctioning the Muslim women by doctoring the photos of prominent women of Islamic faith from social workers to journalists. The app, which was named 'Bulli Bai', has drawn a major controversy and become an example of flawed cyber security measures as it was the second time that Muslim women were apparently auctioned online.
In a horrible incident, photos of hundreds of Muslim women were uploaded on an app using the hosting platform GitHub. It was the second such instance that had happened within a year. In July last year, the 'Sulli Deals' app had uploaded photos of Muslim women and auctioned them online. Bulli Bai was akin to its predecessor and its functions are as same as Sulli Deals. If the Bulli Bai app was opened, a Muslim woman's face was randomly displayed under the title Bulli Bai. Muslim women who have a strong presence on social media were targeted as their photos were uploaded on the app.
The development had stirred a major resentment against the government for failing to take action against such cybercrime for the first time itself. After the app had brought trouble to the ruling government, Union Minister of Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw has said GitHub has confirmed blocking the user and that CERT (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) and police authorities are coordinating further course of action. It has been reported that the Mumbai and the Delhi Police have filed separate FIRs in connection with the app.
In the case of Sulli Deals and its abusive contents, two FIRs were filed by the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh Police last year under the grounds of missing photos of Muslim women. However, no action was taken against the culprits to date. The women activists lash the government for failing to take action in the last year's case and the failure has become one of the reasons behind the emergence of Bulli Bai. A journalist, who is one of the women named in the Bulli Bai app, said that Muslim women have had to start the year with a sense of fear and disgust.
The journalist had lodged an online complaint with the Delhi Police and based on her complaint, the Cyber Police Station of Delhi Police have registered an FIR against unknown persons for allegedly uploading a doctored picture of her online. In her complaint, she said, "I was shocked to find out this morning that a website/portal called bullibai.github.io had a doctored picture of me in an improper, unacceptable, and clearly lewd context. This needs immediate action, as the same is clearly designed to harass me and other similarly situated independent women and journalists."
Ten points that you must know about the nightmare:
- The journalist has said that the website/portal is clearly aimed at insulting Muslim women as the derogatory term 'Bulli' is used exclusively for Muslim women and the entire website seems to have been designed with the intent of embarrassing and insulting Muslim women.
- The Delhi Police had registered a case under sections 509 and 354A of the Indian Penal Code while the Mumbai Cyber Police had registered a separate FIR against the app developers under section 354D - stalking of women and 500- punishment for defamation. The police departments of both cities are probing the case and no arrests have been made so far.
- Bulli Bai was launched on January 1st and more than a hundred women were put up for auction.
- Many politicians and women's rights groups had blamed the right-wing elements for displaying Muslim women for the auction.
- Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has urged the people to converge against the insult of women. He said, "The insult of women and communal hatred will stop only when we stand against it in one voice. The year has changed, the situation should also change. It is time to speak up."
- The National Commission for Women (NCW) had written to the Delhi Police to fasten its action to ensure that such crimes won't occur in the future. NCW has taken suo-motu cognizance of the incident.
- PDP President and former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti had alleged that fringe elements who were targeting Muslim women online had the official patronage. "Appalling that the criminals behind such derogatory and demeaning actions against Muslim women are given a free run", she added.
- Shiv Sena MP had urged the police to arrest the culprits. She said, "I have repeatedly asked Hon IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw Ji to take stern action against such rampant misogyny and communal targeting of women through Sulli deals like platforms. A shame that it continues to be ignored."
- The journalist, who moved her complaint in Delhi, has urged the GitHub hosting platform to take accountability for the online auctioning as Bulli Bai was running through the platform. The journalist said, "We have been sold and auctioned online on your platform. We demand answers, and deserve accountability from @github."
- One of the affected women demanded arrest rather than FIR. She said, "We don't want an FIR, we want arrests. Enough of bread- crumbling - show us actual action. We cannot let this happen a third time!'. Another affected woman had put out a question that was in the minds across the nation - "Are we becoming the most unsafe country for women?".