BEING an upper-class Hindu woman, I count myself as a privileged citizen of India. I will tell you why — taking note of the Bulli Bai case, I can’t even put myself in the shoes of those Muslim women who woke up to see themselves listed for ‘auction’, their self-esteem crushed, identities stolen as they became a part of an illicit online market.
Imagine waking up one day to see morphed pictures and videos of yourself on an app for auction. The questions that will immediately pop up – what else does this person have on me? How severe is the situation? How to control it? The sad reality is there is no immediate solution to such activities, you will have to go through the entire legal process which may take years.
Many people in India may not think about religious repression or targeting since it doesn’t usually happen to the majority, by that I mean, the ‘Hindus’. Now, for those who may argue that it does, it doesn’t really happen on the scale of those who belong to the minority community and follow the authoritarian regime in a democracy.
Launched on Saturday, January 1, the controversial app ‘Bulli Bai’ was blocked by the hosting platform Github after complaints of derogatory content. The app contained pictures of Muslim women including journalists, social workers, famous personalities, and students. It was created to target women belonging to a particular community. Fatima, the missing Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Najeeb Ahmed’s mother, was also on the list.
Four arrested by Mumbai and Delhi Police from different regions of the country at the time of of penning this article – Niraj Bishnoi, Shweta Singh, Vishal Kumar Jha, and Mayank Rawal. The prime accused is Shweta Singh, an 18-year-old, the alleged mastermind behind ‘Bulli Bai’ app. The accused seemed to have used names related to the Sikh community in their Twitter handles which promoted the app in order to mislead people about their identity.
To my surprise, there is a social media outrage over the controversy, where a group of people have actually come out in support of the accused. Have they failed to understand that apps like ‘Bulli Bai’ are actually pushing a criminal agenda? Some have even justified it by claiming that the application was created for “fun” and did not intend to denigrate the women listed for ‘auction’. Even in a situation so grim and sensitive, an elite class of literates are happily justifying the move. Today, a big section of the society in India has failed to understand why the creators of such nefarious apps are wrong.
Two facts are undebatable: (a) Humans were being “traded/auctioned” online; (b) Victims were selected based on their gender and religion. Online auctions could be presented as fake but, the trauma for the women named is real with actual physical dangers spilling over into the offline world .
No excuse, explanation, or defense can take away the fact that the accused were involved in a sinister movement, and the entire setup is unpardonable. Strong legal action should be taken against the perpetrators.
Moreover, platforms like Github should have stringent surveillance of their content in order to ensure and reassure that such activities do not take place in the first place.
The age of the alleged creators does not matter. If an 18-year-old can mastermind the whole row, she should face the legal process, and pay the price. Such perpetrators build a false image of our democracy.
What will the punishment be? Only a few years behind the bars for trying to auction women online!