On the morning of January 1, Khalida Parveen, 66, was shell-shocked to find her picture among the women put up for auction on the 'Bulli Bai' app.

She is among two women from Hyderabad who were targeted by the Bulli Bai app. The app used Git Hub, an American hosting platform for software projects. It posted photos of hundreds of Muslim women, mostly vocal across the country, and put them up for auction.

Once the app was opened, a Muslim woman's photo popped up with the tagline 'Your Bulli Bai of the day'. Later, the app was taken down following outrage on social media.



"Kya log he yeh. 66-year-old mujhe bhi auction kiya hai. Mujhe afsos hua yeh sochke ki humara samaj kidhar jaa rahe hai," she said.

Khalida said some people thought that Muslim women were dumb and that they cannot raise their voices. "But Shaheen Bagh has proved them wrong. The Muslim women who gathered at Shaheen Bagh irrespective of their age and qualification were determined and clear of what they wanted. They could even move the government. The latest attack on Muslim women is aimed at suppressing or scaring these vocal Muslim women," she said.

Putting up a brave face, she said they are neither afraid nor can be silenced. "India is no more a safe country for not just Muslim women but all irrespective of their caste, creed, age, financial background, etc," she said.

Ayesha Minhaz, another Muslim woman targeted by the shoddy app took to Twitter to voice her concern. "Everything I did in the past six months has been to get better and start working. All I have been trying to do is to work on myself so that I can do what I love the most. And I will. But this is one of those days when I wonder, god, at what cost?" she asked.

"All it took me to snap out of a Twitter break was learning that someone auctioned my photo. The unfortunate reality of being a Muslim woman in India is that I have prepared myself for far worse. No amount of caution will spare us till we overthrow fascists. This country keeps inflicting an endless cycle of trauma and violence. More power to all the fellow Muslim women having to deal with it," she added.

Hyderabad police were quick to respond and register the case. "The matter has been taken cognizance of and a case will be registered and action will be taken," police tweeted.

Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi urged K Chandrasekhar Rao, MAUD Minister KT Rama Rao, DGP Telangana police, and Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad City immediately arrest the perpetrators. "A symbolic FIR is not enough, they should be arrested, the government should avail the services of Counter Intelligence (CI) cell and Anti Radicalization department of the force," he tweeted.

How it all started

The incident came to the limelight on Saturday when Ismat Aara, a Delhi-based journalist took to Twitter to share her experience. "It is very sad that as a Muslim woman you have to start your new year with this sense of fear and disgust. Of course, it goes without saying that I am not the only one being targeted in this new version of #sullideals," she wrote.

She also shared a screenshot of her photo on the app sent by a friend that morning. She filed a complaint with the Delhi police on Saturday.

Later, on Sunday, an FIR was registered by Cyber Police (South East Delhi) based on Ismat's complaint under sections 153A (promoting enmity on grounds of religion), 153B (Imputations prejudicial to national integration), and 354A and 509 for sexual harassment.

Similar cases have been reported from Mumbai, Kolkata, and other cities. Priyanka Chaturvedi, an MP from Maharashtra's ruling Shiv Sena said she spoke to Commissioner of Police Mumbai police and DCP Crime Rashmi Krandikar and assured that they will investigate the case. She also said that she spoke to DGP Maharashtra and hoped that those behind "such misogynistic and sexist sites" are apprehended.

Meanwhile, Union Minister for IT and Communications, Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted that the government of India was working with police organizations in Delhi and Mumbai on this matter.

Background

In a similar incident on July 4, 2021, an app named 'Sulli Deals' on GitHub started putting out pictures of Muslim women taken from their social media accounts purportedly for auction. Once a user opened the app, words reading 'Sulli deal of the day' with the photo of a Muslim woman would pop up. 'Sulli' was a derogatory word used against Muslim women.

Two FIRs were filed in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh but even after 118 days, the investigation has not made any progress.

In response to Ismat Aara's tweet, the Delhi police assured that the matter has been taken cognizance of and concerned officials have been directed to take appropriate action. But not many citizens believed their assurances.

Nabiya Khan, one of the women targeted in the earlier Sulli Deals incident, retweeted the Delhi police's tweet with a quote that read: "All lies @DelhiPolice! You have never provided me a copy of the FIR registered on my complaint dated 12/07/21 against the violation of my dignity and crime committed against me regarding Sulli Deals. I am still waiting for it. It's been 5 months already. What action will you take this time?"

"This token of cognizance action by Delhi police is to safeguard its perpetrators from justice. Their inaction on the Sulli Deals case is a testimony of that," wrote a Twitter user.

"When the Mumbai police just took 4 days to arrest the guy who gave rape threats to Kohli's kid, why is Delhi police so lazy to arrest persons when a similar crime happened last year," tweeted another user.

Nimisha S Pradeep

Hailing from Palakkad, Kerala, Nimisha completed her MA in Communication (with a specialization in Print and New Media) from the University of Hyderabad. She has interned with The Hindu Metroplus, Chennai and The Sentinel, Assam. She was a fellow of the NFI Fellowship for Independent Journalists in 2021. In 2015, she attended the Jenesys Student Exchange Programme in Japan. She firmly believes in the power of words and the impact it can make on society. She looks forward to using her career in journalism to voice the issues of minorities. Her interest areas include gender, women and society. She pursues travel, photography, and music in her leisure time.

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