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
September 23,2022

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New Delhi, Sept 23: The Supreme Court on Friday said that no coercive action will be taken against journalist Navika Kumar for period of eight weeks in connection with the abusive remark against Prophet during a TV show. 

The Supreme Court clubbed and transferred to the Delhi Police all FIRs registered against journalist Navika Kumar over the controversial remarks made by ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma on Prophet Mohammad during a TV debate moderated by her.

It also granted liberty to Kumar to move the Delhi High Court for quashing of the lead FIR.

The Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police will probe the matter.

The apex court on August 8 had granted interim protection from arrest to Kumar and issued notices to the Centre, West Bengal government, and others on Kumar’s plea seeking quashing of proceedings initiated against her.

Sharma’s remark on the Prophet during a TV debate had triggered protests across the country and drew sharp reactions from many Gulf countries.

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News Network
September 28,2022

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Ahmedabad, Sept 28: Bajrang Dal workers late Tuesday night thrashed several youths from a particular religion reportedly for trying to enter a 'garba' venue in Ahmedabad. Videos being circulated on social media show some youths being questioned about their religious identities and beaten up by the saffron brigade. 

One of the videos shows a person being stripped, punched, and kicked by half-a-dozen men in saffron scarves amidst the busy traffic. The person identifies himself as Salman Shaikh, and while pleading that he be allowed to go, says that he won't come back. The police said that they were verifying the authenticity of videos.

"We are aware of the videos and in the process of verifying those. As of now, there is no case filed since no one has come forward to lodge a complaint," B U Jadeja, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone 7, Ahmedabad said. 

According to Bajrang Dal, the incident happened at R K Party Plot at Sindhu Bhavan Road in Ahmedabad on Tuesday night while they were "checking" identities of revellers in order to keep non-Hindus away from 'garba' venues. The nine-day Navratri festival began on Monday and like for the past several years, Bajrang Dal activists have been warning non-Hindus to stay away from 'garba' venues. 

Confirming the incident, president of north Gujarat, Bajrang Dal, said, "Our workers spotted these people from R K Party Plot on Sindhu Bhavan Road. While applying 'tilak' to everyone entering the 'garba' venue, we spotted four Muslims. I heard that there were some fights."

The saffron brigade claims that non-Hindus going to 'garba' is nothing but part of "love jihad". The organisation has submitted memorandums to district authorities in various parts of Gujarat for not allowing non-Hindus into 'garba' venues.

R K Party Plot owner Nirav Patel said that he was not aware of the incident as he had only rented his plot to an event management firm -- Sky Events. When contacted, Vedik Shah, who runs Sky Events, said that he did come to know about some fights last night but "it didn't occur at his event".

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News Network
September 20,2022

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Bengaluru, Sept 20: Karnataka Education Minister BC Nagesh has announced that the Bhagavad Gita will be taught as part of the moral education syllabus in schools and colleges across the state from December, 2022.  

Responding to a query in the Legislative Council on Monday, BC Nagesh said, "We are contemplating the introduction of the Bhagavad Gita in schools from this academic year. It will be taught under a moral education subject. The discussion is ongoing. A committee will be formed and we will take a decision soon," he said.

BJP MLC MK Pranesh had asked if the state government is hesitant to introduce the Bhagavad Gita in schools, despite “no opposition”. He asked, "The government says there is no proposal to implement teachings of Bhagavad Geeta to students in Karnataka. Is the government hesitant to teach Bhagavad Geeta? Why has the interest shown by the government earlier while issuing statements evaporated?" Earlier Nagesh had stated that as per the National Education Policy (NEP), on the lines of Gujarat state, Bhagavad Geeta will be introduced in Karnataka after consulting educational experts.

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai had also said that it was his government's stand to include the Bhagavad Gita in the syllabus as a part of the moral education subject. Minister for Large and Medium Industries, Murugesh Nirani, stated in Council that the Bhagavad Gita has “human values” and children need to learn about those values. “The government of Gujarat has taken a decision to add Bhagavad Gita to the syllabus and a decision should be taken in Karnataka also to introduce Bhagavad Gita to children,” he said.

However, senior Congress leader and former minister from Mysuru, Tanveer Sait, said that introducing the Bhagavad Gita in the syllabus "is more dangerous than COVID-19 pandemic".

Former Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy questioned the state government on the proposal, and added that teaching the Bhagavad Gita won't fill empty stomachs. "The state is facing thousands of problems and the teachings of Bhagavad Gita won't provide food for people. Emotional matters are gaining importance in the country. The innocents are being misled. There is an end to this trend and we will wait until then," he said.

Congress leader and former Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said, "We believe in Hindu religion and give equal respect to other religions. We do not have any objection to teaching Bhagavad Gita, Bible, or Quran to children. But, children should be given quality education."

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