After fury over Muslim women being 'auctioned' by right-wing extremists - for the second time in less than a year - IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw tweeted a terse two lines late Saturday to say the GitHub user behind the 'Bulli Bai' app had been blocked and "further action" was being coordinated.
The brief message was in response to a plea by Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, who yesterday tagged Mr Vaishnaw asking him to act against "rampant misogyny and communal targeting of women".
"GitHub (the Microsoft-owned software-sharing platform used to build and run the 'Bulli Bai' app) confirmed blocking the user this morning itself. CERT (Computer Emergency Response Team, an office within the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, or MEITY) and police authorities are coordinating further action," Mr Vaishnaw tweeted.
GitHub confirmed blocking the user this morning itself.— Ashwini Vaishnaw (@AshwiniVaishnaw) January 1, 2022
CERT and Police authorities are coordinating further action. https://t.co/6yLIZTO5Ce
Ms Chaturvedi thanked the minister for his tweet but told him more had to be done.
"Sir, Thank you. With due respect I had shared with you that besides blocking the platform punishing the offenders creating such sites is important. I hope the Home Minister's Office and MEITY will support Mumbai Police to find these culprits and make them as well as platforms accountable."
Sir,Thank you.With due respect I had shared with you that besides blocking the platform punishing the offenders creating such sites is important.I hope @HMOIndia & @GoI_MeitY will support @MumbaiPolice to find these culprits&make them as well as platforms accountable #BulliDealshttps://t.co/o1wXAnJVYq— Priyanka Chaturvedi???????? (@priyankac19) January 1, 2022
Mumbai Police have begun a probe at Ms Chaturvedi's request.
Delhi Police have also initiated a case that was filed by journalist Ismat Ara, who was one of several women who found themselves listed for 'auction' on the vile and disgusting application.
The 'Bulli Bai' app appeared to be a clone of 'Sulli Deals', which triggered a massive row last year by offering users a 'sulli' - an insulting term used by right-wing trolls and extremists for Muslim women.
In both cases there was no actual sale involved, but that was hardly the point.
The purpose of the apps was to degrade, humiliate and harass, its targets and critics have said.
"It is very sad that as a Muslim woman you have to start your new year with this sense of fear & disgust. Of course, it goes without saying that I am not the only one being targeted in this new version of 'sulli' deals. Screenshot sent by a friend this morning," Ismat Ara tweeted.
It is very sad that as a Muslim woman you have to start your new year with this sense of fear & disgust. Of course it goes without saying that I am not the only one being targeted in this new version of #sullideals. Screenshot sent by a friend this morning.— Ismat Ara (@IsmatAraa) January 1, 2022
Happy new year. pic.twitter.com/pHuzuRrNXR
"There are many Muslim names, including mine, in the obnoxious 'Bulli Bai', same as 'Sulli Deals'. Even Najeeb's mother has not been spared. It's a reflection on India's broken justice system, a dilapidated law and order arrangement. Are we becoming the most unsafe country for women?" Sayema, a popular radio personality, said.
There are many Muslim names,including mine,in the obnoxious #BulliDeals , same as #SulliDeals— Sayema (@_sayema) January 1, 2022
Even Najeeb's mother has not been spared. It's a reflection on India's broken justice system, a dilapidated law n order arrangement. Are we becoming the most unsafe country for women?
Opposition leaders have also condemned the horrific app and its creators, and have called out the government for allowing such criminal actions to go unpunished.
"It is unacceptable that this project of dangerous anti-Muslim misogyny is back. Appalling indictment of the state of affairs, that not only was nothing done last time, but these forces also felt emboldened to repeat the whole thing because the establishment backs them," Congress MP Karti Chidambaram tweeted.
The 'Bulli Bai' app has been taken down by GitHub, which allows anyone to upload and share an in-development app. The 'Sulli Deals' app had also been shared via GitHub.
Two FIRs, or First Information Reports, were filed by police in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh over the 'Sulli Deals' app but no significant action was taken against those responsible.
With input from PTI