Delhi Police Files FIR Against ‘Sulli Deals’ App After Outrage From Muslim Women
The Delhi Police on Thursday registered a complaint against unknown creators of the “Sulli Deals” app, which auctioned photos of Muslim women online.
The now-defunct app was created using GitHub, an open-source hosting platform. The app was discovered on Sunday when Twitter users began sharing their “deal of the day,” and GitHub subsequently removed the app on Monday. The police sent notices to GitHub on Wednesday seeking details about the objectionable app.
“Sulli” is a derogatory word used to refer to Muslim women. Many of the women targeted on the app include Muslim journalists, activists, and social media users who are mostly critical of the government. The intent of the app, and the comments that followed in support of the creators, point towards a worrying trend where Muslim women are vulnerable to violence specifically from the Hindu right.
“Women are not safe in this country but as Muslim women, we are unsafer,” an unnamed Muslim woman told The Citizen.
A Muslim journalist, Fatima Khan, who covered the 2020 riots in northeast Delhi, was among the women who were targeted by 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 said in a tweet.
Notably, this is not the first “sale” of Muslim women online — ostensibly for entertainment purposes. An India-based YouTube channel posted photos of Pakistani Muslim women on Eid this year to “rate” and “auction” them. No action has been taken yet against Ritesh Jha, who ran the account which perpetrated the large-scale harassment. Rather, a hashtag trended in his support after these accounts were suspended.
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These incidents speak to a larger pattern of virulent hate campaigns, harassment, and misogyny specifically targeted at Muslim women. “Scores of social media accounts… promote material that is not only pornographic but also glorifies sexual violence against Muslim women,” write Alishan Jafri and Zafar Aafaq in Article 14.
Many of the women targeted have also bemoaned the lack of outrage and coverage of the targeted abuse on social and news media. Law enforcement and government representatives have also been mostly silent until outrage mounted on social media.
The Editors Guild of India responded to the issue expressing deep concern for the harassment of women journalists who are critical of the government. “This vile attack is symptomatic of underlying misogyny in some sections of the society, especially against Muslim women,” it said in a statement.
Moreover, the trend is part of a Hindutva ecosystem in which Hindu men seek to degrade the Muslim community as a whole by insulting Muslim women in particular. Journalists such as Rana Ayyub and activists such as Shehla Rashid and Safoora Zargar routinely face death and rape threats online.
But other Muslim women who do not engage in politics are often not spared either. Hana Mohsin Khan, a commercial pilot, was also among the women targeted. Khan filed an FIR in the case. “I’m resolute and firm in getting these cowards to pay for what they have done… I am a non-political account targeted because of my religion and gender,” she said in her tweets.
Some other Twitter handles also placed “bids” on Hasiba Amin, the national coordinator for social media of the Congress Party. One of the Twitter handles involved in the bidding, called @sullideals101, was hailed as “legendary” by other supporters of the vile app.
Sania Ahmad, who was also harassed by the same handle, lodged a complaint against the Twitter users along with Amin. “They WILL keep on coming back. Unless the police registers an FIR and makes an example of some of them,” she said in her tweets, urging users to report the handle and everyone who liked and retweeted their tweets.
“They have an entire thriving ecosystem that we need to break,” she wrote.
On Thursday, the National Commission of Women and the Delhi Commission of Women took cognizance of the issue and sought a reply from the Delhi Police on the action taken against the unknown perpetrators.