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KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Hundreds of Muslim women's images were taken from their social media sites without their authorization and 'actioned off' as 'Bulli Bai of the day' with derogatory text on the GitHub app 'Bulli Bai.'
  • The Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai controversies are examples of how internet platforms outside India that do not comply with Indian law can prolong investigations into cyber-crime, even if it affects Indian citizens.
  • Thisindicates the impunity with which these individuals operate, knowing full well that the ruling establishment will turn a blind eye.This is the result of years of hate-mongering against the community, aided or ignored by numerous administrations, to the point that they have lost all fear of the law.

INTRODUCTION

In the online environment, there is at times strong hostility towards women. This hostility has taken on a more perverse and targeted shape with the Bulli bai and Sulli deal incidents. It attempts to demonize and discourage Muslim women, whoever be the case. This would affect all the women even from other communities and would make them feel more self-conscious or even scared about the opinions and images they share in online public spaces.

Recently in January 2022, hundreds of Muslim ladies were shocked when their photos, which were obtained without their permission from their social media sites, were posted on a mobile app for 'auction,' labeled the 'Bulli Deal of the Day.' This although wasn't the first time such an incident had happened and in July 2021, a similar app called 'Sulli Deals' emerged. While 'Sulli' or 'Sulla' is a derogatory term used for Muslims, 'Bulli' is most likely a spin on the term.

A brief description of Sulli Deals is that, similar to Bulli Bai, several Muslim women discovered their photos on the open-source website GitHub through an application called "Sulli Deals." So, when a person opens the app, a snapshot of one of these ladies is randomly generated and offered to the user as their 'Sulli deal of the day,' which is designed to imply that these women are available to satisfy a man's desires.

Unfortunately, the case has come to a halt in the 'Sulli Deals' issue, with no arrests or investigations made and the Bulli Bai comes nearly six months after the 'Sulli Deals' incident, which used a similar ruse to claim selective misogyny. This piece will go through each of these important occurrences in depth because, as the pandemic adage goes, no one is safe until everyone is safe. However, it appears that perpetrators of misogynist and communal abuse are in a better position than the women they target in such circumstances. Further, the article will go over the actions and reactions that have occurred as a result of such situations, as well as whether or not any steps have been taken to prevent them.

BULLI BAI: SULLI DEALS 2.0

As part of the "Bulli Deals" incident, several Muslim women have once again been "listed" in an online "auction," like mentioned replicating the similarly disgusting "Sulli Deals" scandal that sparked outrage in July last year.The Delhi Police's Cyber Cell had filed an FIR in the case and sent GitHub a notice, while the Delhi Commission for Women had sought harsh action but no arrests have been made in the case, and no offenders have been identified as of yet, much to the dismay of the victims.

Furthermore, to say, the 'Sulli Deals' were not the first time Muslim women were put up for 'auction,' with the offenders thought to be Hindutva affiliates whose goal appears to be to suppress outspoken Muslim women with a voice. At least four such 'auctions' have occurred in the previous three years; the first occurred in April- May 2021 on a YouTube channel named 'Liberal Doge,' where Pakistani women were 'auctioned,' and when Indian women began to draw attention to it, they were also targeted.

The second, in July 2021, as mentioned was 'Sulli Deals,' which, like the most recent 'Bulli Bai,' uploaded images of ladies and labeled them with 'Your Sulli Deal of the Day,' like the lingo of e-commerce websites advertising discounted products. After the GitHub platform had taken it down, the perpetrators behind Sulli Deals shifted to the audio platform in Clubhouse rooms, which was launched in November 2021. According to sources, 'Bulli Bai' is the latest assault which is a carbon copy of 'Sulli Deals' and has listed hundreds of women, as well as some kids.

These are gender-based hate crimes that need to be addressed by the police. Even written complaints, FIRs, and Women's Commissions contacting the police, and despite Parliamentarians calling for action, nothing is done. As a result of which the individuals who target Muslim women act with confidence and impunity, knowing that they will face no repercussions.

On witnessing such incidents, the Women in Criminal Law Association published a statement of sympathy with Muslim women who have been targets of these apps, condemning the "Islamophobic harassment" of Indian Muslim women through the Bulli Bai webpage. The statement expresses solidarity with Indian Muslim women whose images and information were broadcast on Bulli Bai without their knowledge or agreement, and condemns this attempt to sexualize, dehumanize, and harass Muslim womenunequivocally. It further states that auctioning women is a gross violation of their constitutional right to dignity, privacy, and bodily autonomy.

GITHUB'S ROLE IN 'SULLI DEALS' AND 'BULLI BAI' APP CASE

GitHub is essentially a hosting platform with an open-source code repository. As previously stated, like 'Sulli Deals,' the app 'Bulli Bai' was created and utilized on GitHub. The software functions similarly to Sulli Deals. When you open it, a Muslim woman's visage appears at random and is displayed as a 'Bulli Bai.' GitHub is a popular platform for hosting open-source projects where numerous programmers, including those who aren't affiliated with the original project, can contribute to the software's improvement. While developers, coders, and software engineers are the primary users of GitHub, anyone may sign up for a free account. It is easier to remain anonymous there because users are just required to supply an email address when creating an account.

Knowing how GitHub works, it's evident that because it's based outside of India, it doesn't comply with Indian legislation. As a result, when Indian law enforcement agencies requested that GitHub cooperate fully and transparently with them in their investigation by providing them with all details and information available on GitHub about the users responsible for creating and using the "Sulli Deals" and "Bulli Bai" webpages, GitHub declined.

GitHub promptly suspended the account used to develop the Bulli Bai app as done with Sulli Deals. The company also stated that it would comply with Indian law enforcement agencies if their inquiries followed internationally recognized legal procedures. In a statement, the company said, "We notified India police of our policy in this situation and will cooperate upon obtaining appropriate legal action from them." Hence, to obtain information from corporations situated abroad, authorities must follow a procedure outlined in the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). This is a time-consuming process involving several foreign ministries. This is why India's impending Personal Data Protection Bill, among other things, demands the storage of some types of data within the country's boundaries.

ACTIONS AND REACTIONS

After complaints were filed about the 'Sulli Deals' application in July 2021, the Noida police in Uttar Pradesh and the Delhi police both filed separate FIRs. However, no arrests have been made in the case. Officials from the police department have stated that an investigation is underway, but have refused to provide further details because as mentioned above GitHub is not an Indian company and is based in the United States, it may opt not to release the names or cooperate with the investigation.

This isn't restricted to GitHub and this app; screenshots are shared on WhatsApp and other apps as well, and it quickly escalates into a real threat that could turn into a physical assault at any time. Besides that, an online poll titled 'Which one would you prefer for your harem?' was created, with Muslim women listed as 'options.' Despite the harsh comments and sexually graphic responses, the vote remained open for 24 hours even after a continuous report on the survey in Twitter was made. And this is simply one of the situations that have occurred; there have been other similar cases. The notion at present is, anyone can say whatever they want and get away with it. People who abuse others and make vehemently antisemitic remarks but face no penalties. Therefore, arresting someone will teach others that their acts can have negative consequences. Because until the culprits are apprehended and convicted, the message sent out is that such targeting of Muslim women is not taken seriously by police and other authorities. The sense of impunity that results would invite more attacks.

Unfortunately, as stated above in the Sulli Deals case no proper action was taken against the accused. However, in the present case of Bulli Bai, four of the accused have been arrested including the main creator of the app. This was a great move that was taken to control the situation. The point that is to be noted here is that all the offenders are between the age of 19 and 21 fromwhich it appears that the unfiltered hate and fake news that is spreading on social media is causing a larger problem for our society especially looking at the hatred that is going down to India's young people, it is a kind of outbreak that needs to be corrected immediately.

As a result, the accused must be prosecuted under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code, including but not limited to sections 153A that speaks about promoting enmity on religious grounds, Section 153B regarding Imputations prejudicial to nationalintegration, Section 354A and Section 509 for sexual harassment, as well as provisions against trafficking and slavery and sections 66 and 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

CONCLUSION

The 'Bulli Bai' app case has sparked outrage and contempt throughout the internet. It is nearly hard to prevent such tragedies with the introduction of technology and, in particular, social media platforms because popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter utilize a combination of people and artificial intelligence to filter out criminal and offensive content, but these systems are far from flawless. GitHub, on the other hand, doesn't have any of these filters because it isn't primarily a social network.

Looking at such cases, some are even rationalizing it on social media, claiming that the app was made "simply for fun." Social media, as a medium, is tremendously overwhelming. While it gives individuals power through a democratic platform, it also silences you and could be used as a tool that is vulnerable to abuse and harassment. Both Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai have represented a restricted view of women, as well as a harsh and humiliating attitude toward Muslims especially. These acts to say are inspired by the toxic atmosphere and hatred towards Muslims and lack of action only encourages them and the others.

Therefore, to concludethere have been reports of arrests in connection with the Bulli Bai App case, which is great. The accused must be found guilty and not be allowed to escape, as happened in the Sulli Deals case. Because speaking out against such acts of perversion and taking swift action could be a good place to start. Isn't it "Beti Bachao" after all?


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