For Khalida Parveen, a 67-year-old Muslim woman and activist from Hyderabad, Bulli Bai app featuring her name, Twitter handle, and photograph did not come as a surprise.
"They targeted vocal Muslim women. It is not a coincidence that my name figured in the list a day after I campaigned on Twitter for the arrest of Narsinghanand," she said.
Parveen filed a complaint with the Hyderabad police's Cybercrimes wing on Monday, 3 January. An FIR is now registered under sections 509 (intent to hurt modesty of a woman) and 345 D (stalking) of IPC and also the IT Act.
Parveen had campaigned against Narsinghanand Saraswati, a self-styled godman, who had made incendiary speeches against Muslims in a conclave organised by the Hindu right-wing in Haridwar, between 17 and 19 December 2021.
In Hyderabad, Ayesha Minhaz, a journalist and Muslim woman, was also targeted by the app.
'App Targets Vocal Muslim Women'
Parveen, who is popularly known as Khalida apa (sister) in the Hyderabad activist circles, has been a human rights activist for close to four decades. She said that Bulli Bai app specifically targets vocal Muslim women, who have found their voice. "Muslim women of Shaheen Bagh, who left their home to sit on a dharna for months together, showed the country that Muslim women are a force to be reckoned with. For the right wing, such women are threats, be it online or on ground," Parveen told The Quint, while she was on her way to file the police complaint.
The 67-year-old's name figured in the auction list on 2 January, a day after the app was launched on 1 January. "I had extended my solidarity to women who were already on the list when my name, too, appeared. It did not come as a shock because I realised that they targeted Muslim women activists and those who have a voice on social media," Parveen said.
On 2 January, Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, came out in support of Ayesha Minhaz.
Minhaz had tweeted, "The unfortunate reality of being a Muslim woman in India is that I have prepared myself for far worse. No amount of caution will spare us till we overthrow fascists."
Parveen insisted that Bulli Bai targeted women who have vociferously criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre. Among those targeted are women who have criticised the Haridwar conclave where Hindu 'godmen' reportedly called for violence against Muslims in the country.
"They (the accused) have realised that Muslim women will not go back home till they achieve success. So they want to silence such women," Parveen said.
Her campaign against Narsinghanand Saraswati had got traction online, she added. "Bulli Bai appeared soon after several Muslim women, men and other activists spearheaded an online campaign against Narsinghanand. The app was meant to divert attention from this campaign."
Parveen has decided to include this aspect of the case in her complaint to the Hyderabad police.
‘I Am Not Ashamed’
The seasoned activist said that the 'auction' has not deterred her resolve. "I am not ashamed because my photo appeared on that app. The ones who put up the photo there should be ashamed," she said.
Parveen said that since the app targeted both young and older Muslim women, it is safe to assume that the perpetrators want all Muslim women to be silenced. "They are scared even of the older Muslim women like me," she said.
When Hyderabad-based activists lead the cybercrime police to her plight, the officials acted promptly, she said. "The Hyderabad police reached out to me on Twitter and asked me to approach them without any hesitation. The response has been good so far. I hope the investigation nails the culprits."