Sulli Deals: Man arrested in India over website ‘auctioning’ Muslim women

·2-min read
Representative image: In the past year, two different applications have put up photos of Muslim women online for auction in India   (AP)
Representative image: In the past year, two different applications have put up photos of Muslim women online for auction in India (AP)

The Delhi police have arrested a man in connection with the creation of an application called “Sulli Deals”, which put up photos of hundreds of Muslim women online for an auction last year.

Aumkareshwar Thakur, 25, was arrested by the Delhi police in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The accused is a graduate in computer applications, the police said.

“He is the main mastermind behind the Sulli deal app case,” said KPS Malhotra, deputy commissioner of police in the Delhi police special cell.

Though FIRs were filed months ago, this is the first arrest made in the case concerning the derogatory application that targeted Muslim female activists, journalists and influencers. The app first came to public light in July 2021 and resulted in outrage and legal complaints.

The application, hosted by Github, contained photos and details of hundreds of Muslim women, sourced without their consent. Every time a user clicked the website, it generated a new result out of the dozens of profiles, describing the woman as their “deal of the day”, in an auction-like manner.

Most of the profiles included in the database were of vocal Muslim women who have often spoken out about crimes against religious minorities in India under the Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi government.

While the app was taken down soon after the outrage and many who promoted the platform on their Twitter disabled their accounts, no arrests were made for months.

But recently, another app with a similar interface made headlines. Titled “Bulli Bai” — another derogatory slang term — the new app also targeted Muslim women.

This time, the Mumbai police of the Congress-NCP-Shiv Sena government in Maharashtra state took swift action to track down the perpetrators. Four students, including a 21-year-old, were arrested for allegedly creating the application.

Several women have since criticised the Delhi police’s handling of the Sulli Deals case and their inability to make any arrests, alleging that they were protecting the criminals.

After the pressure continued to mount over the past week, the police in Delhi said on Sunday that they tracked down the creator of Sulli Deals, helped by the evidence collected during the interrogation of one of the accused in the custody of the Mumbai police.

“During interrogation of ‘Bulli Bai’ app case mastermind Neeraj Bishnoi, we found evidence that helped us arrest Aumkareshwar Thakur, who wrote codes for Sulli Deals app. He is being interrogated & his laptop is under forensic examination,” Mr Malhotra told ANI news agency.

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