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They are truly afraid of these women

Image for representational purpose

Any patriarchal society feels it has the exclusive right to intimidate, threaten, humiliate and silence a woman if she comes forward to speak out and has the courage to practise what she preaches. There are many examples of this in families, religious organizations, political parties and progressive movements, including in Kerala. What is happening to Indian Muslim women activists and journalists now is worse - a planned and deliberate form of bigoted cyber sexual harassment which uses their photos and personal details to 'auction' them off online in the most demeaning and humiliating manner possible. On New Year's Eve 2022, when the world wished one another goodness, peace and happiness, the first thing that popped up on many women's phones was a message that they have been put up for auction through the app 'Bulli Bai'. What more could a person need to feel that his or her self-esteem and personality have been called into question since the beginning of his or her year?

The app contained the names and pictures of more than 100 women, from Saba Naqvi, a senior journalist and 'Madhyamam' columnist, to writer Rana Safvi, young journalist Ismat Aara, Saima, Fatima Khan, Khurratul Ain Rahbar, Shahla Rashid,Ladeeda Sakhaloo, to former JNU students' union leader Ayesha Renna, from a Keralite student who was active in the anti-CAA movement. They all have something these Muslim women, media, social and student activists have in common: they all had raised counter voices against harassment experienced by arrested Muslim youth and scholars through targeted labelling of them as terrorists or accusing them of eating beef, and against the overturning of the very Constitution in the name of governance and Hindutva terrorism.

In July last year, there was a similar communal cyber-sexual harassment through an app called 'Sulli Deals'. The fact that the authorities were not ready to bring the culprits to light or punish them despite numerous complaints, was a message that the perpetrators of such crimes need not be afraid of punitive action. As such, the actions of these culprits continue unabated. It has also been fuelled by calls of extreme hatred in Haridwar and other parts of the country. The same pictures of almost everyone who was included in the Sulli Deals app have also popped up on Bulli Bai. The Muslim women reporters who covered the news in the national and international media at that time were searched and their pictures were added to 'Bulli Bai'. This is not just a case of psychic disorder, it is a planned game of communalised patriarchy. An example that illustrates the mentality of these criminals: in addition to media and social activists, a woman who has been put up for sale by the app is named Fatima Nafees - the mother of JNU student Najeeb Ahmad, who went missing after being attacked by Hindutva communalists! The 66-year-old is not a journalist nor a member of any religious or political organization; instead she is just an ordinary North Indian Muslim woman who had not even travelled alone until she was forced to search for her missing son. Najeeb's whereabouts are still a mystery with no top police headquarters left to appeal to. Each time she experienced humiliation and harassment at the hands of officials, she stood up and fought harder to find her son, thwarting the state conspiracy that was trying to her son as a terrorist. She joined hands with others in the fight against the forces of hatred that had wronged her son. The makers of 'Bulli Bai' wanted to include Fatima Nafees's image in it as an insult to her struggles and everything she stood for, as they could not stomach the 'defiance' of a Muslim woman in her fight for dignity and fundamental rights.

Following the complaints, FIRs were lodged against the app in Delhi and Mumbai. The app and its Twitter account were cancelled. No one is under any illusion that there will be action beyond what was followed when a complaint was lodged against Sulli Deals. However, this continuing onslaught makes one thing clear: some of the men who believe in their agenda and try to convince themselves that they are the most powerful in the country are the main forces behind the communal and bigoted state of affairs, and they are really afraid of women. They seek to silence the women who would stand up against that. It is this fear that drives them to use their mercenaries to carry out such covert attacks; but they do not know that women in the process are getting stronger.

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TAGS:Bulli Bai Sulli Deals cyber attack on Muslim women figures auction of Muslim women 
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