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“Bulli Bai controversy”: The app targeting Muslim women on social media

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

NEW DELHI: Nearly six months after a derogatory ‘Sulli Deals’ site that allegedly uploaded photos of women for auction without their consent surfaced on the hosting platform ‘GITHUB’, a new mobile application targeting Muslim women by the name of Bulli Bai has emerged.

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The controversy surrounding the ‘Bulli Bai’ popped up on January 1 after some influential women active on the social media, especially from the Muslim community, complained that their doctored photos were uploaded for sale online on the Github hosting platform.

Several women including journalists, social workers, students and famous personalities, were among those who complained against the Buli Bai demanding strict action against its creators.

The investigation conducted by the Cyber cell of Mumbai and Delhi Police found that hundreds of Muslim women were listed for “auction” on the app with photographs sourced without permission and doctored.

What did the Bulli Bai app do?

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The app displayed doctored faces of influential Muslim women with a derogatory tagline that read “Sulli deal of the day”. It is to be noted that ‘Sulli’ is a derogatory term used against women. The app creators would use the photos illegally obtained from the women’s social media handles and convince people to take part in the “auction”.

“Bulli Bai” was also being promoted by a Twitter handle with the name @bullibai, with its display picture of a “Khalistani supporter”, and saying women can be booked from the app.

Is ‘Bulli Bai’ a clone of Sulli Deals?

The Bulli Bai app appeared to be a clone of Sulli Deals which had triggered a similar row last year. Once opened, a Muslim woman’s face was randomly displayed as Bulli Bai. Muslim women with a strong presence on Twitter, including journalists, have been singled out and their photos uploaded.

The matter was brought to the notice of IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw by Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi on Twitter. Chaturvedi said she has raised the matter with Mumbai Police, and demanded that the culprits should be arrested at the earliest.

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Action against Bulli Bai and its creators
Taking cognizance of the matter, the Information and Technology Ministry has now taken swift action against the Bulli Bai app its creators and an FIR has been lodged by the Delhi Police in this connection.

According to reports, Delhi Police had registered a case based on a complaint filed by a woman journalist alleging that she was being targeted by an unidentified group of people on a mobile application named `Bulli Bai` created on the GitHub platform.

An FIR has been registered under section 509 in Cyber Police station of South-East district, Delhi Police said. This came six months after the Delhi Police registered case in connection with photos of Muslim women being uploaded and “auctioned” on a Github app.

Union Minister for Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw took to Twitter 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 in a reply to a tweet by Shiv Sena`s Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi.

The case against the Bulli Bai app

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Delhi Police on Sunday said that a complaint was filed by a woman at the Cyber police station where she alleged that her photo was uploaded on a website to target her.

The complainant said that she was seeking immediate registration of FIR and immediate investigation against unknown people who are seeking to harass and insult Muslim women on social media and the internet.

The police had earlier said that the matter has been taken cognizance of and concerned officials have been directed to take appropriate action. In her complaint, the woman told police that she was shocked to find out that a website/portal “had a doctored picture of me in an improper, unacceptable and clearly lewd context.”

“Social media being a form of public expression cannot be used to demean and derogate women in general and Muslim women in particular by misogynist sections of society. This is nothing short of online harassment and the tweet referred to herein is per se liable for criminal action,” she said.

“The ‘Github` hosting platform is violent, threatening and intending to create a feeling of fear and shame in my mind, as well as in the minds of women in general, and the Muslim community whose women are being targeted in this hateful manner. In fact, this website has been targeting other Muslim women as well,” alleged the complainant.

Outrage over Bulli Bai app

Opposition leaders have also condemned the act and have called out the government and Delhi Police to take strict action. “It is unacceptable that this project of dangerous anti-Muslim misogyny is back. The appalling indictment of the state of affairs, that not only was nothing done last time, but these forces also felt emboldened to repeat the whole thing because the establishment backs them,” Congress MP Karti Chidambaram tweeted.

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“Disgusting. Inaction by authorities has made these criminals brazen. Ashwini Vaishnaw, National Commission for Women and Delhi Police please investigate and take strict action,” AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Kavita Krishnan said,” In rage and solidarity with Ismat Araa, Samreen and other Muslim women being subjected to vile online “auctions” by rape-minded Sanghi filth. Deliberate police inaction on #sullideals has emboldened the terrorists to resurface as #bullibai.”

The National Commission for Women (NCW) also took a suo moto cognizance of the “defunct website called `Sulli Deals`.

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