2 Arrested in Mumbai for Creating Fake Online Auction of noticeable Ind…

Mumbai Police have arrested two people in connection with a website that offered noticeable Indian and Pakistani Muslim women in a fake auction.

The website was called “Bulli Bai,” which is an offensive slang term referring to Indian Muslims. The site included images of celebrities, journalists, artists and activists, like Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.

Police have already brought charges against one of the people arrested—a 21-year-old man who is an engineering student. The other, a woman, is nevertheless being investigated. It is currently unclear whether either of them made the website.

Though there was no real sale involved on the website, listing these women was meant to embarrass them. Some of the targeted women posted screenshots of their “listings” on the site to their Twitter accounts, which provoked outrage on the platform.

This prompted Ashwini Vaishnaw, India’s Minister of Electronics and Information Technology, to assure stricter measures would be implemented. On his Twitter, Vaishnaw confirmed the Indian government was working with police organizations in Mumbai and Delhi to probe the website.

A spokesperson from GitHub, the coding platform the website was hosted on, confirmed that the user who had made the site had been removed and that the company would cooperate with the current investigation.

Two people have been arrested in connection to a website that was holding a fake auction of noticeable Indian Muslim women. Above, Kashmiri Muslims offer prayers before a priest as he displays a relic believed to be a hair from the beard of Prophet Muhammad during the last Friday of Eid Milad-un-Nabi, which marks the birth anniversary of the Prophet, at the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar, India on Oct. 22.
Photo by Tauseef Mustafa/AFP via Getty Images

The Muslim women listed on the website said the auction was intended to humiliate them, many of whom have been vocal about rising Hindu nationalism in India and some of the policies of chief Minister Narendra Modi.

Women rights groups and politicians from opposition parties urged the governing Bharatiya Janata Party to take action against online harassment of Muslim women, prompting Vaishnaw to potential strict measures.

Police in at the minimum three states said they have opened investigations into the incident and filed criminal complaints against developers of the website, based on the complaints of the targeted women.

This is not the first time Muslim women were listed on a fake auction website. Last June, a similar website called “Sulli Deals,” also a derogatory term for Muslim women, was produced for the same purpose. That website remained online for weeks and was only taken down by authorities after complaints from victims. Police opened an investigation into that case, but no one was arrested.

Indian women, particularly Muslims, have often found themselves the target of hate and abuse on social media platforms, including Twitter. Outspoken Muslim women, including journalists and activists and those basic of Modi and his Hindu nationalist party, have received threats of rape and violence.

Many of the victims say the fake auction website is the latest attempt to intimidate them.

Khadija Khan, a lawyer and journalist with Bar & Bench website, said she received a Twitter notification on New Year’s Eve that informed her she was tagged in a tweet that displayed her picture as part of the fake auction. The account has since been suspended.

Khan’s initial reaction was to report the tweet and block the user, dismissing it as spam. But she soon received messages from her friends and colleagues who confirmed to her that she was also on the list.

“My initial reaction was indifference and dismissal because we are used to daily trolling but by the next day, it had turned into shock and horror. Realizing what it truly was gave me nightmares,” Khan said.

Khan found sustain from her family and colleagues, but the incident left her shaken.

“It’s a message that ‘Look! We can brazenly humiliate and sell Muslim women online and nevertheless go scot free while they are nevertheless vying for some modicum of justice,'” Khan said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Police in other places in India have arrested a man alleged to be behind the offering for sale of noticeable Muslim women by a fake online auction in a case that has sparked anger and outrage across the country. Above, unidentified Muslim women walk past a board displaying the name of the Hindu nationalist group Sri Ram Sena Hindustan in a residential neighborhood in Belagavi, India, October 7, 2021.
Aijaz Rahi/Associated Press

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