Online sexual attack against Muslim women: Open letter to CJI

News Network
January 6, 2022

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Request for a Suo motu petition in regard to the unconstitutional, illegal and misogynistic targeting of Muslim women through the SulliDeals and BulliBai Apps.

On the 1st of January, 2022, as the world was sending out celebratory messages to mark the New Year, hundreds of Muslim women woke up to deeply objectionable, obnoxious and misogynistic attack on them via the ‘Bulli Bai App’. Photos of hundreds of Muslim women, including prominent journalists, activists and thinkers, were secured and uploaded without their permission on this app and were subsequently ‘auctioned’.

The Bulli App was hosted at the URL bullibai.github.io. GitHub is platform which hosts websites, with a repository of open-source codes. After much furore, the platform was finally taken down on the morning of 01.01.2022 and the Twitter handle of the Bulli Bai has been suspended. Like ‘Sulli Deals’ the ‘Bulli Bai’ app was also created and used on GitHub. The GitHub platform allows users to create and share apps. While the portal is no longer functional, the offenders continue to walk around scot-free leaving the survivors struggling with their personal identities revealed to millions of social media users who want to buy and sell their bodies. This has rendered them vulnerable in both social media spaces and real world.

This is not the first when such an outrageous public sale of Muslim women’s bodies has taken place openly. In the month of July 2021, a similar App called Sulli Deals app offered photographs of Muslim women as ‘deals.’ for virtual auctions. The perpetrators even had no fear of legal consequences as they publicy declared their intention to launch an application that facilitates the sale of Muslim women. While the very action of downloading and posting pictures and private details of Muslim women, in both instances, was not only non-consensual and in violation of the right to privacy, it was clearly meant to degrade, dehumanize, vilify and demean Muslim women. ‘Auctioning’ women in this manner is a depraved attempt to commodify them and strip them of any personhood or dignity. This is a blatant violation of the very fundamental right to live with dignity and the right to bodily autonomy protected under Article 21 of our Constitution.

However, it is imperative for us to also recognise these repeated attacks on the dignity of Muslim women as a well thought out political strategy by majoritarian forces to systematically isolate Muslims for public harassment and humiliation, and intimidate them into silence. Terms such as ‘Sulli’ and ‘Bulli’ are offensive and derogatory slurs used to specifically insult and denigrate women belonging to the Muslim community and thereby, constitutes hate speech. The public auction of Muslim women is an extreme form of vilification of Muslims reducing them to non-citizens and sub-humans. This only points to the utter moral bankruptcy in our society where communal elements openly target, bully and perpetuate sexual violence against women with alarming impunity. Read along with the public calls for genocide on the streets of Delhi earlier last year, and at the Dharam Sansad in Haridwar more recently, it is evident that instances such as these are carefully strategized hate crimes pushing our country into a dark abyss to which there can be no turning a blind eye to anymore.

Apps such as ‘Sulli deals’ and ‘Bulli Bai’, similarly, perpetuate violence against Muslim women. These apps use pictures and social media accounts of women based on ‘visible indicators’ that establish that they are Muslim, such as their names, usernames, posts, and so on. This is a direct manifestation of the prevalent objectification of Muslim women. These actions, in addition to leading to a severe assault on the dignity of Muslim women, has affected their public participation as well. Many Muslim women were forced to undertake actions such as deleting their pictures and many had to even delete their social media profiles. This has severely limited the participation of Muslim women in online public spaces. State inaction which has allowed this, constitutes a violation of the preambular promise to Equality of Opportunity. Muslims are systematically being denied the opportunity to participate wholly and freely in public life.

Following the attacks against Muslim women on the Sulli Deals App in July, 2021, two FIRs were filed by the Delhi and Uttar Pradesh Police. Both the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) and the National Commission for Women (NCW) took cognizance of the matter and assured action. Worryingly, nearly six months after the incident was first reported, investigations have made little progress and investigative agencies have not even able to identify the perpetrators of the crime.(1) The callous attitude of the state machinery in addressing the issue has made a complete mockery of the suffering and trauma of the targeted women. As an extension, the deafening silence of the law enforcement agencies in countering repeated communal onslaughts on Muslim women cannot but be seen as an implicit endorsement of such depravity.

The Constitution of India promises every citizen equality and a life of dignity. Nonetheless, routine communal and misogynistic aggressions such as these deprive Muslim women of the most fundamental rights. They compel marginalised women to live in fear and terror in their own country. No civilised society should meekly allow for the targeted harassment, objectification and public auctioning of its women. Given the colossal failure of the state machinery in adequately responding to such instances of hate crimes in the country, the onus now falls upon the Supreme Court to urgently intervene to safeguard the constitutional rights of minority communities and restore public faith in constitutional systems.

Such despicable assaults on the dignity of Muslim women are also calculated attacks on the very idea of India as envisaged by the Indian Constitution. They are carried out with the specific intent of ‘othering’ all marginalised communities and breaking our cherished secular fabric. These actions, solely based on religious hatred, militate against the Constitutional notions of fraternity and violate the right to equality, the right against discrimination, the right to personal liberty, right to religious freedom and the right to life. While our constitution strives for a safe environment for people irrespective of their gender and religion, such acts of violence continue to promote discrimination and public disharmony.

We, therefore, demand that the Supreme Court register a Suo motu petition and ensure that:

(i) The police register FIRs Suo moto and on the basis of complaints, investigate the offence expeditiously and take necessary steps against the perpetrators.

(ii) Monitor the investigation and prosecution in regard to these offences. (edited on 4th Jan)

(iii) Investigation and prosecution in regard to the FIRs registered in July, 2021 also be monitored by the Supreme Court and necessary action be taken if it is found that the police have failed to discharge their duties.

(iv) Direct the concerned authorities to ensure that the GitHub and Twitter platforms are not used for such blatantly illegal activities as Sulli deals and Bulli Bai apps.

(v) Direct payment of suitable compensation to the victims of these communal hate crimes.

(vi) Direct that appropriate steps be taken to ensure the prevention of recurrence of any such communal hate crime.

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News Network
June 8,2024

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London: Maharashtra followed by Karnataka and Delhi are the top three states of India bringing in foreign direct investment (FDI) into the UK, according to a new joint report produced by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the High Commission of India in the UK.

Indian Assets: Charting the Journeys of Indian Companies in the UK, launched in London earlier this week, revealed that companies headquartered in Maharashtra brought in the highest amount of FDI into the UK at 20 per cent in 2023, followed by Karnataka (12 per cent) and Delhi (8.6 per cent).

Completing the top 10 tallies are the states of Gujarat (7.1 per cent), Tamil Nadu (6.7 per cent), Telangana (6.5 per cent), Uttar Pradesh (5.9 per cent), Haryana (4.5 per cent), West Bengal (3.14 per cent) and Kerala (3.05 per cent) -- making up 78 per cent of the total FDI from India into the UK.

“As India and the UK continue to evolve and navigate the complexities of a rapidly changing global landscape, I believe that our businesses reimagining the India-UK corridor will realise our shared vision and aspiration for a secure and sustainable future prosperity,” said  Vikram Doraiswami, the Indian High Commissioner to the UK, who launched the report in London.

The analysis finds the leading sector bringing in FDI from India in terms of the number of companies and employees is IT and software, highlighting the achievements of Indian companies in the UK across sectors such as automotive, electric car batteries, diagnostics and healthcare, and technology.

It also spotlights the positive impact Indian companies can have on heritage British brands and how the value of these legacy brands is retained and protected when acquired by Indian companies.

“Today, Indian companies with operations in the UK have integrated themselves into the British economy, making their mark in industries in almost all leading sectors. Their ability to adapt, innovate, and forge meaningful partnerships has not only propelled their growth but has also enriched the economy of the UK and its regions, promoting job creation, driving investment, and fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion,” said CII Director General Chandrajit Banerjee.

Among some of the other findings of the report, new Indian students cumulatively contributed an estimated GBP 4.3 billion (Rs 45,611 crore) to UK universities against the backdrop of a 5 per cent increase in UK student visas last year.

It also showcases the robust relationship that Indian companies have across different UK regions, with the West Midlands, London and the north-west being the top recipients of Indian FDI in the UK across the fields of automotive, software and IT services and energy.

According to the latest official data from the UK’s Department of Business and Trade, total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and India was GBP 39.0 billion (Rs 4.1 lakh crore) in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2023, an increase of 4.8 per cent or GBP 1.8 billion (Rs 19,093 crore) in current prices from the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022.

India was the UK’s 12th-largest trading partner and the second-largest source market for the UK, bringing in 118 new projects and creating 8,384 jobs.

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Agencies
June 15,2024

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Mount Arafat, June 15: Following the footsteps of prophets beneath a burning sun, Muslims from around the world congregated Saturday at a sacred hill in Saudi Arabia for intense, daylong worship and reflection.

The ritual at Mount Arafat, known as the hill of mercy, is considered the peak of the Hajj pilgrimage. It is often the most memorable for pilgrims, who stand shoulder to shoulder, feet to feet, asking God for mercy, blessings, prosperity and good health. The mount is about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Makkah.

It’s believed that Prophet Muhammad delivered his final speech, known as the Farewell Sermon, at the sacred mount 1,435 years ago. In the sermon, the prophet called for equality and unity among Muslims.

“It’s indescribable,” Ahmed Tukeyia, an Egyptian pilgrim, said on his arrival Friday evening at a tent camp at the foot of Mount Arafat.

Hajj is one of the largest religious gatherings on earth. The rituals officially started Friday when pilgrims moved from Makkah’s Grand Mosque to Mina, a desert plain just outside the city.

Saudi authorities expect the number of pilgrims this year to exceed 2 million, approaching pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

The pilgrimage is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. All Muslims are required to make the five-day Hajj at least once in their lives if they are physically and financially able to make the demanding pilgrimage.

The rituals largely commemorate the Qur’an’s accounts of Prophet Ibrahim, his son Prophet Ismail and Ismail’s mother Hajjar — or Abraham and Ismael as they are named in the Bible.

The time of year when the Hajj takes place varies, given that it is set for five days in the second week of Dhu Al-Hijjah, the last month in the Islamic lunar calendar.

Most of the Hajj rituals are held outdoors with little if any shade. When it falls in the summer months, temperatures can soar to over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). The Health Ministry has cautioned that temperatures at the holy sites could reach 48 C (118 F). It urged pilgrims to use umbrellas and drink more water to stay hydrated.

After Saturday’s worship in Arafat, pilgrims will travel a few kilometers (miles) to a site known as Muzdalifa to collect pebbles that they will use in the symbolic stoning of pillars representing the devil back in Mina.

Pilgrims then return to Mina for three days, coinciding with the festive Eid Al-Adha holiday, when financially able Muslims around the world slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to poor people. Afterward, they return to Makkah for a final circumambulation, known as Farewell Tawaf.

Once the Hajj is over, men are expected to shave their heads, and women to snip a lock of hair in a sign of renewal. Most of the pilgrims then leave Makkah for the city of Medina, some 340 kilometers (210 miles) away, to pray in Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, the Sacred Chamber. The tomb is part of the prophet’s mosque, which is one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

In recent years, Saudi authorities have made significant efforts to improve access and avoid deadly accidents. Tens of thousands of security personnel were deployed across the city, especially around the holy sites, to control the crowds, and the government built a high-speed rail link to ferry people between holy sites in the city, which has been jammed with traffic during the Hajj season. Pilgrims enter through special electronic gates.

Saudi authorities have also expanded and renovated the Grand Mosque where cranes are seen around some of its seven minarets as construction was underway in the holy site.

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News Network
June 11,2024

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Bengaluru/Mysuru: Well-known Kannada actor Darshan Thoogudeepa and 10 others have been arrested for the murder of 33-year-old from Chitradurga, Bengaluru police said on Tuesday.

S Girish, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West), confirmed the development.

"We have taken him (Darshan) into custody for the murder of a man named Renukaswamy. The case has been registered at the Kamakshipalya police station. Ten more people have been taken into custody and we are interrogating them," Girish said and declined to give more details.

Police sources said that the 47-year-old 'Challenging Star' was picked up from Indiranagar (Ittigegudu) in Mysuru, his hometown, around 8:30 am. He is being brought to Bengaluru.

Renukaswamy's body was recently found in western Bengaluru's Kamakshipalya. There were injury marks on the head and other body parts.

Darshan, among the A-listers of Kannada cinema, has often been in conflict with the law but this is the most serious allegation against him. 

“CCTV was examined, and the victim was identified as Renukaswamy from Chitradurga,” the Bengaluru Police said.

What is the case?

According to sources, the preliminary investigation revealed that Renukaswamy had sent obscene messages to the actor’s girlfriend Pavithra Gowda.

Police sources disclosed that Renuka Swamy had harassed Pavithra Gowda. Following Pavithra’s complaint, Darshan allegedly instructed Vinay, an associate, to bring Renuka Swamy to Bengaluru.

According to the police, the victim, Renuka Swamy, was murdered on June 8. His body was found in a drain in Kamakshipalya, located in Bengaluru, on June 9. Mr Swamy, who worked for a pharmacy company, had sent "obscene messages" on social media to an actress close to Darshan, the police said. 

Mr Swamy was from Chitradurga, over 200 km from Karnataka's capital. 

Local residents reportedly alerted the police to the murder when they saw stray dogs dragging a body from the drain. Investigations led to the arrest of some suspects who allegedly directed the police to Darshan.

"He was my only son. Last year he got married. I spoke to him on Saturday only. I want justice," Mr Swamy's father Srinivasaiah said. 

Police have provided tight security at Darshan's RR Nagar residence in Bengaluru.

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