Online app "Sulli Deals" steals pictures of hundreds of Muslim women and puts them on sale, sparking massive outrage against its unidentified creators.
Indian authorities are investigating an unidentified group for developing an online app called "Sulli Deals" where stolen images of hundreds of Muslim women were posted and victims put up for auction.
Police in India's capital city New Delhi registered a First Information Report (or FIR) against the creators of "Sulli Deals", local media reported on Thursday.
The auction app featured images of hundreds of women on Sunday, according to a report carried by The Quint news site but the group behind the platform took down the app following a public outcry.
"Sulla" or Sulli" is a derogatory term that Hindu far-right uses to refer to Indian Muslims.
Journalist Fatima Khan, who reported about 2020 Delhi communal riots which killed Muslims mostly, was among the women listed on the app.
"How is this acceptable? What will be the punishment, if any, meted out to the people who made this list? Muslim men are lynched, Muslim women are harassed and sold online. When will this end?" Khan, who works for The Print news website, tweeted.
The app was created and hosted on GitHub, a hosting platform.
Erica Brescia, Chief Operating Officer at GitHub, said the app has been removed.
The probe began after Delhi Commission for Women brought the issue to the New Delhi police's knowledge by taking a suo motu notice of the issue.
The police have been asked to present their response by July 12.
How is this acceptable? What will be the punishment, if any, meted out to the people who made this list? Muslim men are lynched, Muslim women are harassed and sold online. When will this end? @github @NCWIndia— Fatima Khan (@khanthefatima) July 5, 2021
'Vile attack' on Muslim women
"Once opened, the app would ask the user to click on 'Find your sulli deal of the day'. It would then randomly display a photo of a Muslim woman as your 'sulli deal of the day' — the photo most likely sourced from their social media account. I was shocked to see my face being right there, displayed as the deal of the day," Hana Mohsin Khan, a pilot by profession, told The Quint.
The Editors Guild of India raised its concern over the attack on Muslim women.
"This vile attack is symptomatic of underlying misogyny in some sections of the society, especially against Muslim women as well as those who have been outspoken critics of the current government," the association' said.
"The Guild calls upon the law enforcement agencies as well as the National Commission for Women to take this issue with utmost urgency and to trace and punish the wrongdoers," the statement said.
"The Guild also urges digital media and social media platforms to take appropriate and immediate steps to curtail such actions."
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Issued Notice to Police on a very serious matter of cyber crime where pictures of several Muslim women were displayed online without their consent and termed as ‘Sulli Deal of the day’. FIR should be registered and strong action should be taken. #SulliDeals pic.twitter.com/MyvKGTsvJ1— Swati Maliwal (@SwatiJaiHind) July 7, 2021
'Quench your lust'
Earlier in May, photos and videos of Muslim women were stolen from their social media platforms by Indian far-right accounts during Eid and put up for bids on Twitter and YouTube.
The pictures of Muslim women were even live-streamed on Youtube with the description "quench your lust with your eyes."
"Twitter is still not doing enough to protect women from online violence and abuse, despite repeated promises to do so," an analysis by Amnesty International revealed in 2020.
India is a predominantly Hindu country, with Muslims making up about 14 percent of its more than 1.3 billion people.
Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi — an avowed Hindu nationalist — say India's tradition of diversity and secularism has come under attack since his party won power in 2014 and returned for a second term in 2019.
They accuse the party of fanning religious passions and presiding over religious intolerance and sometimes even violence. The party denies the accusation.
Recently, India's far-right trended #CoronaJihad after coronavirus outbreak, insinuating a Muslim conspiracy against Hindu-majority country.
Unfortunately, we’re only aware of the rapists that have been caught, but these people who steal pictures of women, morph them, sexualize them, and put the women on auction go scot-free. (2/3)— Saniya Sayed (@Ssaniya_) July 5, 2021
Toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking
In 2019, when India annexed portion of disputed Kashmir, hundreds of music videos by far-right urged Indians to buy land in Kashmir and marry Kashmiri girls.
TikTok, which lets the user lip-synch to music and make short vines, was flooded with images of Hindu nationalists declaring plans to go to Kashmir and marry women there.
The idea was boosted by lawmaker Vikram Saini, who told members of his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] "eager to get married" to go to Kashmir, adding that his party has "no problem with it."
Critics had called such songs a "culmination of a toxic misogynistic nationalist thinking that draws validation from humiliating Kashmiri women."