‘Sulli’ and ‘Bulli Bai’: Muslim women ‘on sale’ on an app

The Delhi Commission For Women (DCW) on Monday asked the Delhi Police to appeat before it , when, nearly six months after photos of Muslim women were uploaded in a group called ‘Sulli Deals’ on an app using open-source platform GitHub, another such incident has come to light.

Photos of hundreds of Muslim women were uploaded on an app called ‘Bulli Bai’, following which many took to social media to complain to the police.

Taking to Twitter, a journalist, who is one of the women named, claimed that ‘Bulli Bai’ was created on GitHub, which would collect photos of Muslim women from their social media accounts and encourage people to take part in an ‘auction.’

Information and Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said the perpetrator’s account had been blocked by GitHub and police and Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) were investigating the matter.

‘GitHub confirmed blocking the user this morning itself. CERT and Police authorities are coordinating further action,’ he tweeted on Sunday.

Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi supported the women on Twitter. They also asked IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to take cognisance of the matter.

‘I have repeatedly asked Hon. IT Minister @AshwiniVaishnaw ji to take stern action against such rampant misogyny and communal targeting of women through #sullideals like platforms. A shame that it continues to be ignored,’ Priyanka Chaturvedi said.

‘Disgusting. Inaction by authorities has made these criminals brazen. @AshwiniVaishnaw @NCWIndia @DelhiPolice please investigate and take strict action,’ Owaisi tweeted.

The app pretended to offer users the chance to buy a ‘Sulli’- a derogatory slang term for Muslim women. Many social media users condemned the app, saying that the purpose of the app seems to be to ‘degrade and humiliate’ women.

GitHub – the web platform that hosted the open source app – shut it down quickly following complaints.

‘We suspended user accounts following the investigation of reports of such activity, all of which violate our policies,’ the company said in a statement.

The women who featured on the app were all prominent and vocal Muslims, including journalists, activists, artists or researchers. A few have since deleted their social media accounts and many others said they were afraid of further harassment.

But several of the women whose details were shared on the app have taken to social media to call out the ‘perverts’, and vowed to fight. Many have formed a WhatsApp group to offer support to each other and have lodged complaints with the police.

The police said they had opened an investigation but refused to say who could be behind it.

In the past week, Twitter has suspended accounts that claimed they were behind the app and it would be back up soon.

Campaigners say online abuse has the power to “belittle, demean, intimidate and eventually silence women”.

For the women whose identities were taken and used, the fight for justice is a long road. They are determined to have it.

Bulli Bai