'Despicable and totally unacceptable': Pakistan slams fake online auction of Muslim women in India

Published January 4, 2022
Screengrab of the Bulli Bai platform. — Photo via The Wire/Twitter
Screengrab of the Bulli Bai platform. — Photo via The Wire/Twitter

Pakistan strongly condemned on Tuesday the displaying of Muslim women's photographs for fake online auction on a website in India, terming it "despicable and totally unacceptable", and urged the international community to play its parts in stopping the "rising xenophobia and Islamophobia" in the neighbouring country.

Photographs of more than 100 prominent Muslim women, including journalists, activists, film stars and artists, were displayed last weekend without their permission on a website named Bulli Bai — a derogatory slang for Indian Muslims — for sale through fake auction.

The website was hosted on GitHub, a San Francisco-based coding platform, and taken down within 24 hours. The Indian police have arrested a man who was allegedly behind the fake auction.

Though there was no real sale involved, 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 Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Foreign Office in Islamabad denounced the act in a statement issued on Tuesday, saying that "Pakistan strongly condemns the despicable and totally unacceptable harassment and insult of Muslim women on the internet and purpose-built online application in India."

"In a completely obnoxious and repugnant act, aimed at humiliating, harassing and insulting Muslim women, their doctored images have been placed on the internet application with outrageous captions for 'auction'," the statement said, adding that "hate-mongering followers of such applications attacked the dignity of nearly 100 influential Muslim women by 'bidding' on them with deeply offensive remarks."

The FO said this was the "newest low in the violent streak of hate attacks against minorities in India whereby cyberspace — with purpose-built online platform(s) and social media — has been used yet again, to demean and harass women, particularly Muslim women, [so as] to create a feeling of fear and shame amongst the Muslim community".

"These horrifying occurrences have left Muslim women traumatised and in deep fear," it added.

Read: 'Sulli Deals' — How photos of Muslim women were misused on a GitHub app

The FO further stated that under the "Hindutva-inspired BJP-RSS combine dispensation" in New Delhi, space for minorities, particularly Muslims, continued to shrink in India.

"It is reprehensible that no action has been taken against the perpetrators of [a] similar abhorrent act six months ago," wherein the photographs of dozens of influential Muslim women were put up on a social media platform, the FO said.

It was referring to Sulli Deals, another app on GitHub on which photos of hundreds of Muslim women were uploaded on July 4 for fake auction.

"Deafening silence of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leadership and absence of discernible action against ‘Hindutva’ proponents openly calling for genocide of Muslims should send alarm bells across the international community about the gross and systematic human rights violations of minorities, particularly Muslims, in India," the FO said.

It added that Pakistan was reiterating its calls on the international community, particularly the UN and relevant international human rights and humanitarian organisatins, to fulfill their responsibilities to "stop the rising xenophobia, Islamophobia and violent attacks against minorities in India and ensure their safety, security and well-being".

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