NEW DELHI: Police in India have apprehended a man and a woman accused of selling prominent Muslim women on a bogus online auction platform, officials said.
Following a complaint from one of the women who had been targeted, the Mumbai Police’s cyber squad apprehended and detained the two offenders. It wasn’t immediately obvious whether the two were the ones who designed the website.
The male, a 21-year-old engineering student, was arrested and charged, and police said they were looking into the woman’s whereabouts more thoroughly.
Photographs of more than 100 notable Indian Muslim women, including journalists, activists, film stars, and artists, were exhibited on a website last weekend without their consent and put up for sale in a fictitious auction, according to reports. The ladies included on the website included the 65-year-old mother of a missing Indian student as well as Pakistani Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who won the prize for education.
Bulli Bai was the name of the website, which was taken down within 24 hours since it was a disparaging slang word for Indian Muslims. The Muslim women listed on the website claimed that the auction was intended to humiliate them, notwithstanding the fact that there was no actual sale taking place. Many of the women have been vocal in their opposition to rising Hindu nationalism in India, as well as some of the policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The website was hosted on GitHub, which is a coding platform situated in San Francisco. A GitHub spokeswoman confirmed that the user account that had hosted the website on the company’s platform had been terminated and that the business would help with the authorities investigating the incident.
After receiving complaints from the victims, the false auction sparked uproar on Twitter, with several ladies tweeting screenshots after discovering that their photographs were posted on the website. In response to calls from women’s rights organisations and politicians from opposition parties for the government of India to take action against internet harassment of Muslim women, Indian technology minister Ashwini Vaishnaw promised stringent measures.
Based on the accusations of the targeted women, police in at least three states have announced they have begun investigations into the incident and filed criminal complaints against the website’s developers. The investigations and criminal complaints have been filed in three states.
This is not the first time that Muslim women have been posted on a fictitious auction website, according to reports. A similar website, Sulli Deals, which is also a pejorative word for Muslim women, was launched in June for the same purpose. The website in question remained online for several weeks before being taken down by authorities in response to complaints from victims. The crime was investigated by the police, but no one was arrested as a result of the investigation.
On social media platforms such as Twitter, Indian women, particularly Muslim women, have frequently found themselves the focus of hate and abuse directed at them. Muslim women who are outspoken, including journalists and activists, as well as those who are critical of Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, have faced threats of rape and physical violence.
Several of the victims have stated that the fictitious auction website is the latest attempt to frighten and harass them.
Khan, a lawyer and writer with the Bar & Bench website, said she received a Twitter notice on New Years Eve informing her that she had been tagged in a tweet that revealed her photo as part of the fictitious auction. Khan said she did not know what to make of the information. Since then, the account has been suspended.
Khan’s initial reaction to the tweet was to report it as spam and block the sender, claiming that the message was a hoax. The good news is that she quickly received texts from her friends and colleagues who confirmed that she had been included on the list as well.