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Monday, January 24, 2022

Doctored pics online: ‘Happening all over again… unknown men discussing, auctioning us’

🔴 This comes barely six months after another such website was created, also using GitHub, a provider of Internet hosting for software development. No arrest has been made so far in that case by police in Delhi, Noida or Gurgaon.

Written by Sukrita Baruah , Jignasa Sinha | New Delhi |
Updated: January 4, 2022 11:28:47 am
Some of the targeted women expressed frustration with not enough being done the last time, allowing the culprits to continue operating with impunity.

From journalists to a pilot to a Congress leader to the mother of a missing JNU student — these are among the 100-plus Muslim women who have found their names on a website that used their photos without consent, alongside degrading text meant to imply they were being auctioned.

This comes barely six months after another such website was created, also using GitHub, a provider of Internet hosting for software development. No arrest has been made so far in that case by police in Delhi, Noida or Gurgaon.

Some of the targeted women expressed frustration with not enough being done the last time, allowing the culprits to continue operating with impunity.

A journalist, on the basis of whose complaint an FIR has been registered by Delhi Police, said: “It was January 1. I opened a message on WhatsApp from one of my friends and clicked ‘download’ on an image that had been sent, assuming that it was a ‘Happy New Year’ message. Instead, I saw a screenshot of my photo with the text that I am the ‘Bulli Bai of the Day’. I jumped out of bed in shock. It was not surprising because this is not the first time it has happened. But we have all been through so much in the last year, we are barely recovering from the trauma of the second wave. I really wanted to begin the year on a hopeful note and it was shocking to think that someone was sitting on the last day of the year and doing this to degrade us.”

guthub case muslim women auction Some of the targeted women expressed frustration with not enough being done the last time, allowing the culprits to continue operating with impunity.

She said she could not ignore it and felt compelled to take action, especially because this is a repeat offence: “The most worrying thing is that there were multiple FIRs filed the last time, it was spoken about in Parliament, the women’s commission took cognizance of it, but there was no constructive conclusion.”

The mother of a JNU student who has been missing for over five years received calls, telling her that she too was listed on the website. She said she is ignoring it. “It makes no difference to me. Yeh log ghatiya aur neech harkat karke popular banna chahte hai. I am just a mother trying to get justice for my child. People who respect their mothers can never do such a thing,” she said.

Women who had been listed in the earlier case and had approached the police have also found themselves listed in the new website. One of them, a Congress leader, said: “I was shocked… it was happening all over again. These unknown men discuss our rates, auction us and use vulgar language… I had lodged a complaint even in May when a group of men were posting our photos on YouTube and asking for money from other men to continue the ‘entertainment’. I was in trauma. And then I filed an FIR for (the earlier GitHub case); I provided Delhi Police all the evidence, but they never helped me.”

Another journalist, barely a year into the profession, also found that she was targeted. She is working on filing a complaint. “The only things unifying all the women in the list is that they are all Muslim and they have all been vocal. Most are journalists just doing their jobs, some are activists, and some are even minors just voicing themselves on social media. The message here is, ‘We are brazen enough to do this to you and we can do it again’,” she said.

She said she was conflicted about how to share this experience with her family and whether she should go public about it.

“My family is grieving the recent passing of my grandmother. Though I found out on December 31 that I was targeted, I only just told my parents about it and asked them what I should do. They handled it much better than I expected and told me that they will support me in going forward with a complaint. To be honest, they didn’t seem surprised, we have seen the harassment that Muslim women journalists are subjected to,” she said.

A pilot, who had filed an FIR with Uttar Pradesh Police during the previous case, said: “I was hopeful and thought I would get justice but the UP Police never even called me for questioning. I called the investigating officer multiple times but it was all in vain. The men have now created another page. When I saw the screenshots, I was shocked and almost moved to tears… They will keep doing this because they want to silence our voices and the government is not doing anything. Maybe it’s working… I do feel weak now. I don’t wish to go to work and I am not able to sleep. I keep wondering why they used my photo. I never get political or get into any debates or fights.”

Another journalist said a friend whose photo was also misused filed an FIR with the Delhi Police and another filed a complaint with the Gurgaon Police last time. “None of us were called for questioning or any update. The Gurgaon Police never contacted her… It’s too stressful and I am scared. The men will do this again if they are not stopped now,” she said.

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