Man who ‘auctioned’ Muslim women online arrested
Police in India have arrested a man alleged to have created an app that published doctored photos of more than 80 Muslim women who were listed for “auction” online last year. The app, called ‘Sulli Deals’, had sparked outrage.
Delhi Police nabbed Aumkareshwar Thakur, 25, from his home in Indore, a major city in the west-central state of Madhya Pradesh, over the weekend. The arrest came six months after police registered complaints against Sulli Deals’ then-unknown creators.
Thakur’s arrest comes days after a copycat app named ‘Bulli Bai’ uploaded photos of more than 100 Muslim women earlier this month. Following wide public outcry, four people, including Neeraj Bishnoi – the app’s 21-year-old alleged creator – have been arrested over the past week.
In July 2021, Sulli Deals gained national prominence after posting, as “deals of the day,” pictures sourced without consent from the profiles of prominent Muslim women, including activists, artists, and journalists critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
Both apps, which had been hosted on Microsoft-owned web platform GitHub, have been taken down. While there was no actual sale involved in either incident, several media outlets have reported that the intent was to degrade and humiliate Muslim women. The terms, ‘Sulli’ and ‘Bulli’, are reportedly slang terms used to derogatorily refer to Muslim women.
Amid the furor over the Bulli Bai app, one of the women who had filed a police complaint against Sulli Deals in July criticized the Delhi Police for its alleged inaction in that case. But the force’s cybercrimes unit told media outlets on Sunday that Bishnoi’s interrogation had led them to Thakur.
Delhi Police Deputy Commissioner (Cyber Cell) K.P.S. Malhotra told The Indian Express that Thakur had “confessed to his crime” during interrogation and admitted to joining a “trad group on Twitter ... [with the idea] to defame and troll Muslim women.”
An anonymous police source told the paper that these ‘trad’, or ‘traditional’, groups are “conservative” with “members [who] seem to have oppressive views – [ranging] from the caste system to women empowerment.”
While Malhotra said the police were “analyzing his gadgets to recover code/ images related to the app,” Thakur’s brother told the paper he had “no motive to indulge in such activity” and claimed he is “being falsely accused by those who have already been arrested.”