Afreen Fatima, 22, is still too scared to leave her home after finding out she was being auctioned online along with other Muslim women by far-right Hindu activists – they also threatened to kidnap her and sell her as a sex slave.
“I can’t sleep thinking they can attack me in real life,” she said.
Fatima received a call from a friend after midnight on July 4, informing her that her private photos and links to her social media profiles had been posted on the Sulli Deals site without her consent.
“I was disgusted. And I couldn’t understand what was going on.”
On that day, more than 90 Muslim women, including students, activists and journalists, were “auctioned off online,” sparking outrage in the Muslim community.
Right-wing Hindu men had created a community project on the GitHub platform, where anyone could get the “Sulli Deal” of the day. “Sulli” is a derogatory term used to refer to Muslim women in India. When a user selected the “deal of the day” option on the home screen, they displayed a photo of a woman.
Before being deleted, the site had been running for 20 days and had posted photos of these women and links to their profiles on social networks.
After weeks of outrage, media coverage and lawmakers calling for police action, no arrests have taken place. While two police reports were filed – in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi – three victims told Folha they were unsure if any reports had been filed against their complaints.
“Certainly the Delhi Police cybercrime experts can digitally locate the perpetrator,” said lawyer Vrinda Grover, who represents some of the victims. “Delhi Police should be able to follow up on such cases. If not, what can we think?”
Since the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian People’s Party) came to power in 2014, Muslims in India have been constantly attacked by Hindu nationalists. Much of the hatred is promoted by groups or individuals close to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The most vulnerable Muslim populations are in the PBJ-ruled states, which have witnessed attacks by right-wing Hindu nationalists without effective police intervention.
Opposition political parties are calling for action against the culprits, some of whom have been identified by the victims and are on the run.
On July 27, Congress leader Md Jawaid, along with 56 members of parliament, wrote to the Modi government to demand an investigation into the criminals involved in the plot and their arrest. “The perpetrators of these crimes of sexual harassment and hate find the courage to do so because no action is taken against them,” he said.
Three days later, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi wrote to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology: “It pains me to see that almost no action has been taken in this matter until. ‘now, despite its gravity.
“The purpose of the app was to degrade and humiliate women belonging to a certain community,” she said.
As outrage fades into the collective consciousness of Indian society, the hate crime Sulli Deals continues to haunt Ghazal, a marketing consultant in Delhi who wrote about atrocities against Indian Muslims.
On August 1, for example, a certain Kuldeep Chauhan, who claims to be a tutor in his Snapchat bio, sent him the following message: “I saw you somewhere, I think your name and your photo came out on Sulli Deals. .. it was a good application “.
“I keep thinking that if they track me down and find me online, they might follow me in real life. I live with this fear,” Ghazal said.
Ghazal filed a police report on July 11, but was not told if any reports were recorded. “I lost confidence in the police. In fact, when I spoke to a Delhi police official, he understood our problem and promised to help us. But nothing happened afterwards.” , she said.
Ghazal said she was the target of people supported by the PBJ government for her views and religion. “I don’t feel safe as a minority in India. It is no longer the country for which my ancestors fought the British and established a secular nation,” he said.
The State of Minorities in South Asia 2020 report states that India has become “a dangerous and violent space for Muslim minorities” since the Modi government approved amendments to the citizenship law in 2019.
The document says the amendment paved the way for a category of undocumented migrants to legalize their status and become Indian citizens, but specifically excludes Muslims.
Like many similar anti-Muslim incidents by far-right Hindu activists, the Sulli Deals have become a public manifestation of the fetishization and degradation of Muslim women in India.
Nabiya Khan, a New Delhi-based poet and activist, says she must have been 16 when she heard a group of boys in her class call her “sulli”.
“All the boys sitting next to her joined in laughing. The way they looked at me wasn’t a common misogyny. I realized then that it wasn’t just because I was a girl, but because I was a Muslim, “she said.
About eight years later, Khan woke up to find that her photos were among hundreds of other Muslim women being auctioned off on the Internet.
“The sexual fetishization of Muslim women has been prevalent in Indian society for a long time and is closely linked to the violence and abuse they suffer from Muslim women,” Khan said.
She said the politics of power and contempt for Muslim women made her the “ideal victim”. “She is portrayed in an Islamic veil, submissive and devoid of individuality because she does not fit the elite feminist narrative,” she said, adding that sexual violence against Muslim women had normalized. in India.
With subtle state support for the defendants, Muslim women say they have no hope of justice from the police or the judiciary. “We will continue to raise our voices because it was not just our bodies that were auctioned off. It was our identity, our Muslim existence,” Fatima said.
The National Minorities Commission (NCM) on Tuesday (3) requested a detailed report on the actions taken by the Delhi Police and the Police Commissioner in the Sulli Deals case.
In a letter, the MNC asked the two police forces to provide a report on the measures taken, seven days after the government was severely criticized by the opposition in parliament.
Hate crimes against minorities are on the rise, taking the form of mass lynchings and other violence against Muslims, Christians and Dalits. In several states ruled by the PBJ, local governments have passed laws that criminalize marriage between Hindus and Muslims, an echo of Nazi Germany’s Nuremberg Laws that prohibited Jews from marrying or having intimate relationships with persons of “German or related blood”.
In this progressive process of subjugation of minorities and their formal intimidation by prejudices and violent aggressions, India consolidates its formal abandonment of the secular and pluralist ethic which, since independence, has been rooted in the largest democracy of the world.