NEW DELHI: Police in India are investigating how dozens of Muslim women were offered for “sale” in fake “auctions” online without their knowledge, in a case the victims say illustrates growing Islamophobia across the country.

Photos of more than 80 women were reportedly uploaded in recent weeks to GitHub, an open software development platform, under the title “Sulli deal of the day”. “Sulli” is derogatory slang for Muslim women.

Hana Mohsin Khan, an airline pilot, was alerted last week by a friend who directed her to a link that led to a gallery of images of women.

“The fourth picture was mine. They were literally auctioning me as their slave for the day,” Khan said. “It sends chills down my spine. From that day till today, I am just in a constant state of anger,” she said.

GitHub said it had now suspended the users’ accounts, saying they violated its policies on harassment, discrimination and inciting violence.

Delhi police have filed charges — but against unknown persons because they do not know the identity of the perpetrators.

Sania Ahmad, 34, who also found herself “up for sale” last week, points the finger at what she calls an online troll army of Hindu zealots in India that has proliferated in recent years.

They have become adept at hounding people including journalists and activists with thousands of abusive messages to the extent that some shut down their social media accounts.

Many among India’s 170 million Muslims say they feel like second-class citizens since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nat­ionalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in 2014.

A string of lynchings of Muslims by Hindu mobs over so-called cow protection — a sacred animal for many Hindus — and other hate crimes have sown fear and despair in the community.

Journalist Fatima Khan, who was also among the women targeted on GitHub, said the fake “auction” fitted into this pattern. “How is this acceptable? What will be the punishment, if any, meted out to the people who made this list?” she tweeted.

“Muslim men are lynched, Muslim women are harassed and sold online. When will this end?”

Online harassment of women and girls — including threats of violence, rape and manipulated pornographic images — is a huge problem, not just in India.

Published in Dawn, July 11th, 2021

Opinion

Editorial

A call for bloodshed
30 Nov, 2022

A call for bloodshed

The state has wasted precious time by not consolidating its success in pushing TTP out of its strongholds in the north.
Missing childhoods
30 Nov, 2022

Missing childhoods

THE fact is that despite some legal efforts to end the curse of child marriage taking place in Pakistan under the...
Unemployment concerns
30 Nov, 2022

Unemployment concerns

THE ILO finding that labour market recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan, as in many other...
Back to politics
Updated 29 Nov, 2022

Back to politics

PDM and PTI must realise that neither will get what they want if they keep fighting bitterly at every turn.
Election delay
29 Nov, 2022

Election delay

OF recent, leaders from the ruling PML-N have been dropping hints about a possible delay in general elections after...
Sugar woes
29 Nov, 2022

Sugar woes

IT’S that time of year again when cane growers get anxious over the delay in the commencement of the new sugar...