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Bulli Bai app case in India under global spotlight

Jan 18, 2022

By Annisa Essack

As the world welcomed in the New Year 2022, Muslim women in India woke to a vile and shocking site on social media. Their pictures were uploaded to an app called the Bulli Bai, an auction online!  Some of those included in the app were prominent journalists, actresses and others who complained about their doctored pictures uploaded to the GitHub hosting platform.

The incident comes on the back of the “Sulli Deals” controversy; an unidentified group created a similar app on the code hosting platform, GitHub. The word ‘sulli’ is a derogatory term used against Muslim women, and the app displayed a Muslim woman’s face with a tag line below that read “Sulli deal of the Day.”

The “Bulli Bai” app is like “Sulli Deals”, which triggered a row last year. On accessing the app, you find random faces of influential Muslim women, illegally obtained from social media handles, displayed on Bulli Bai. It asks people to participate in the “auction.” “Bulli Bai” was promoted by a Twitter handle with @bullibai showing a “Khalistani supporter” picture, saying women can be booked from the app.

Sania Ahmed, a journalist, activist, and victim, spoke to Radio Islam International, who explained how the app worked and her experience.

Ahmed says the women felt dehumanised, like “pieces of meat”, when she explained how they felt when they found their pictures on the app.

According to Ahmed, there was an ongoing investigation in which many journalists assisted, but nothing much happened as the hosting site is US-based. She also spoke about her previous experience of having her picture posted on Twitter on an account that attracted graphic and gruesome responses. Yet again, she informed the police but with no response.

She says that the “Bulli Bai” app was not just to dehumanise Muslim women again but also to cause divisions among the Sikhs and Muslims, especially after the win by farmers against the laws passed by the BJP Prime Minister.

The app targeted vocal Muslim women as a conscious attempt to silence them. She added that the victims may have been in physical danger, as she and others have received death and rape threats.

The Mumbai police arrested three people, ranging from 18 to 21 years old. According to Ahmed, there was a female and two males of privileged background and the case was investigated timeously as Mumbai is a non-BJP state.

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