Online sexual attack against Muslim women: Open letter to CJI

News Network
January 6, 2022

sullibulli.jpg

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
January 13,2022

Bengaluru, Jan 13: Karnataka may witness 20,000 to 70,000 daily hospitalisations for Covid by the end of January or February 2.

These are the new projections made by researchers at the Indian Statistical Institute and Indian Institute of Science on Tuesday.

Similarly, projections made by the researchers for ICU bed requirement shows that the state will require 1,000 beds to more than 3,000 beds by February 2.

As per projections made by another group INDSCI-SIM (Indian Scientists’ Response to Covid-19), Karnataka, by January 25, will have 35,000 daily cases and 500 to 5,000 severe cases, based on whether individuals are fully vaccinated or unvaccinated.

Prof Gautam Menon, professor of Physics and Biology, Ashoka University, Haryana, who has worked on several Covid models and is a part of INDSCI-SIM, said, “Across the country, we expect six lakh to nine lakh new Covid cases to be reported at the peak between January 21 and February 10. By March, the curve will flatten. Another common thing with projections from other models is that the number of cases will be larger than the second wave.”

Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association (PHANA) president Dr H M Prasanna said, “The state’s private sector does not have 1.4 lakh beds as is being reported. When the second wave started, we checked and there were only 66,000 beds. This is as per the Suvarna Arogya Suraksha Trust portal. We don’t know when it increased. Maybe the government is factoring in medical college hospital beds.”

Estimating the number of beds in private hospitals, he said, there are around 6,500 private hospitals in Karnataka, apart from medical colleges.

“In all, there are 70,000 beds in private hospitals and medical colleges. In both the government and private sector, there may not be more than one lakh beds,” he said.

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News Network
January 14,2022

Two more legislators, belonging to the Apna Dal, an ally of the BJP, have resigned just ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections scheduled to take place next month.

Following his resignation, Chaudhary Amar Singh said: "This government is a liar and no development has been done. I met Akhilesh Yadav and will join him. Soon more people will join us."

He is likely to contest his Shohratgarh seat in Siddhartha Nagar on an SP ticket.

The other Apna Dal MLA R K Verma, who represents the Vishwanath Ganj seat of Pratapgarh, also announced that he is leaving the party.

Both the legislators blamed the Yogi Adityanath government for their leaving the alliance.

With the two new resignations, a total of 12 MLAs from the ruling alliance in Uttar Pradesh have quit, blaming the state government of being anti-backward.

Ten BJP MLAs, including three ministers, have quit the BJP since Tuesday.

It started with the exit of top minister Swami Prasad Maurya, followed by three MLAs close to him on the same day - Bhagwati Sagar, Roshan Lal Verma, and Brijesh Prajapati.

On Wednesday, another state minister Dara Singh Chauhan and MLA Avatar Singh Bhadana quit. Bhadana joined the RLD, an ally of the SP.

On Thursday, Minister Dharam Singh Saini, and three other BJP MLAs - Vinay Shakya, Mukesh Verma and Bala Awasthi - also left the party.

All three ministers who have quit are key OBC (Other Backward Class) leaders, claiming that the interests of the community are being neglected.

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News Network
January 21,2022

Bengaluru, Jan 21: Karnataka government, on Friday, decided to revoke the weekend curfew that the state government had imposed due to a surge in Covid-19 cases.

"This is subject to the condition that if the rate of hospitalisation goes up from the current 5%, we will impose weekend curfew again," said Revenue Minister R Ashoka.

However, night curfew will remain across the state. More details to follow. 

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