It’s the symptom of a disease that has been spreading very rapidly with the effort of some groups to scare and stop the entry of Muslim women in the social and political sphere.
Mohammed Naushad Khan*
NEW DELHI—Misogynists and hate-mongers are the two sides of the same coin. In modern terminology, hate has become a powerful tool to vitiate social fabric with certain motives aimed to demean, denigrate and defame a community under the guise of some agenda, overt or covert. The recent, Sully Deals: Auction of Muslim Women is the worst manifestation of hate which has gained roots from religious bigotry, prejudices born out of age-old anti-Muslim plank.
News report of conspiracy theory behind Sully deals in our land, which they call “Bharat Mata,” should be a matter of serious concern for one and all and especially for those at the helm of implementing the rule of law and those trying to build an inclusive society. On July 4, some Muslim women in India were shocked to find their names and photographs up for auction on an app. As per reports, photos of Muslim women especially students, activists, journalists, artists, researchers, etc. were uploaded by an unidentified group on an app called ‘Sulli Deals’ using GitHub with the stated purpose of auctioning off targeted Muslim women. Following complaint and outcry by social groups and organisations, Delhi Police registered a First Information Report (or FIR) against the creators of “Sulli Deals.”
“This is a conspiracy to target women by creating a database of those Muslim women journalists, professionals, and students who were actively raising a voice on social media against right-wing Hindutva majoritarianism. The intention is to silence their political participation,” the statement signed by a group of more than 800 women’s rights organisations and concerned individuals said.
“This is a targeted hate campaign against Muslim women in India and abroad that amounts to sexual harassment, criminal intimidation, and cyberstalking. It violates their right to privacy, which is a traveling right, and it is an act of censorship. It puts their life and liberty at risk,” the statement further said.
Fatima Khan, a journalist who had reported the 2020 Delhi communal riots, was also 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.
“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, tweeted Swati Maliwal, Chairperson of Delhi Commission for Women.
A C Michael, a Human Rights Activist and a Former Member of Delhi Minorities Commission while sharing his perspective on the issue, said, “For hundreds of years even in the most forward-looking nation with a young-minded attitude, countries like the United States of America had enslaved people who were bought and sold approximately between 1760 and 1860. The historians say Americans made fortunes through slave-trading business and had huge mansions.
“Times like these in our country wherein a journalist was booked under the National Security Act (NSA) for posting a Facebook comment that ‘cow urine and dung do not cure Covid19’, auctioning of humans that too women of a particular religion is a much more serious crime and they deserve to be jailed under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Sadly, till today no arrest has taken place if I am not mistaken. This reflects the mindset of the people in power who are responsible for enforcing the law of land equally among all castes, creeds and religions. The allegation of taking our country back to stone days seems to be coming true as the incidents of such kind increase. Before it becomes too late the voters of India need to decide what they want: a forward-looking or backward-taking government,” said the former member of the Delhi Minorities Commission.
Mrs Rahmathunnisa, National Secretary JIH Women’s Wing, Chief Editor of Aura E-Magazine, Chairperson TWEET (The Women Education and Empowerment Trust), while sharing her perspective on the issue, said, “It’s not just a cyber-crime. It’s the symptom of a disease that has been spreading very rapidly with the effort of some groups to scare and stop the entry of Muslim women in the social and political sphere. It also shows the attitude of such people towards women in general. It has to be dealt as a serious case and the culprits are to be given severe punishment without much delay. Those women and girls who faced humility and dishonour should be given compensation.”
Nancy Barlow, a member of the Delhi Minorities Commission, said, “As you all know an app was run by the name of Sulli Deals in which the Facebook Profile photos of Muslim girls were tampered with and their bidding was done. The Delhi Minority Commission has also issued a notice to the Delhi Police Commissioner on this subject. The Delhi Minority Commission has taken this matter seriously. The Delhi Police Commissioner has assured to take strict action on this. The Delhi Minority Commission will take the above steps to prevent such degrading incidents with the minorities.”
Earlier, National Commission for Women (NCW) also took suo moto cognisance of a media report “about how a defunct website ‘Sulli Deals’, which had posted pictures of Muslim women and had put it up for auction”.
NCW chairperson, Rekha Sharma, in a statement, sought intervention to investigate into the matter and asked Delhi Police to file FIRs “so that perpetrators be punished”. The NCW has directed the Delhi Police to submit an action taken report in the matter within ten days.
*The writer is a sub-editor working with Radiance Viewsweekly, New Delhi.