'Bulli Bai' row on social media: App designed to 'auction' off Muslim women and the outrage that it has caused

The app, which has now been taken down, displayed more than 100 women ‘for sale’; Delhi and Mumbai Police file an FIR in the case

FP Staff January 03, 2022 11:05:04 IST
'Bulli Bai' row on social media: App designed to 'auction' off Muslim women and the outrage that it has caused

Image used for representational purposes only. AFP

The New Year began on a controversial note when photographs of more than 100 Muslim women, including prominent actor Shabana Azami, wife of a sitting judge of Delhi High Court, multiple journalists, activists and politicians, were uploaded for auction on an app.

The row surrounding the app named 'Bulli Bai' is similar to last July’s 'Sulli Deals', in which nearly 80 Muslim women were put up 'for sale'.

Take a look at what the row is all about and how people reacted to the app.

'Bulli Bai' app

The 'Bulli Bai' app was created on the Microsoft-owned open software development site GitHub.

For those who don’t know, 'Bulli' is a derogatory word used for Muslim women in local slang.

Twitter has suspended an account that had been sharing links to the app hosted on GitHub. The Twitter handle had the same name as the objectionable app.

Earlier in June 2021, another app with a name similar to the one currently under investigation had appeared on GitHub with pictures of Muslim women captioned 'deal of the day'.

Subsequently, on 7 and 8 July, police in Noida and Delhi had registered separate FIRs against unknown persons in the case, but nothing has come out of the investigations so far.

The incident went viral when a woman journalist shared an image of her being sold on the Bulli Bai app as ‘deal of the day’.

Taking to Twitter, the journalist said it was "very sad that as a Muslim woman you have to start your new year with this sense of fear & disgust."

Quratulain Rehbar, a journalist from Kashmir, was also listed on the 'online auction'.

She was quoted as telling Al Jazeera: “When I saw my photograph, my throat got heavy, I had goosebumps on my arms and I was numb. It was shocking and humiliating."

Ismar Ara, a journalist based in New Delhi, filed a complaint on Saturday with the Delhi Police after she found herself as part of the 'auction'.

Based on her complaint, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered by Delhi Cyber Police 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.

What are authorities doing?

The Information and Technology Ministry reacting to the news, took action against its creators and an FIR has been lodged by the Delhi Police in this connection.

Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted late on Saturday to inform that action has been taken and the GitHub user behind the `Bulli Bai` app had been blocked and "further action" was being coordinated.

"GitHub confirmed blocking the user this morning itself. Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) and Police authorities are coordinating further action," Vaishnaw said.

The Mumbai Police has also taken cognisance of the matter and concerned officials have been asked to take action.

Maharashtra's minister of state for home and information & technology Satej Patil told Times of India that the authorities had taken serious cognisance of the misogyny and communal hatred towards women from the Muslim community.

Outrage over the app

Political leaders have voiced their anger towards the app and many have demanded for strict action.

Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, "The insult of women and communal hatred will only stop when you stand against it in one voice, and the year has changed, so change your fate and it's time to speak up."

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday said, "Appalling that the criminals behind such derogatory & demeaning actions against Muslim women are given a free run," the former chief minister tweeted.

National Commission for Women (NCW) chairperson Rekha Sharma too tweeted on Sunday that the matter had been 'noted'.

With inputs from agencies

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