By Syed Ali Mujtaba
The arrests made in the ‘Bulli Bai’ app case by the cyber branch police from Mumbai and Delhi suggest the existence of Hindu Cyber Jihadists in India. It is now common wisdom that the Hindutva brigade has created a cyber-ecosystem in the country that can pose an internal security threat to the country.
Those arrested in the ‘Bulli Bai’ app case are; Shweta Singh (19) from Udham Singh Nagar district of Uttarakhand, Mayank Rawat (21) from Kotdwar in Uttarakhand, Vishal Kumar Jha (21) from Bengaluru, Niraj Bishnoi, of Jorhat Assam, and Aumkareshwar Thakur from Indore.
While Shweta Singh is an aspiring engineering student, Mayank Rawat is a Chemistry honors student from Zakir Hussain College Delhi, Vishal Kumar Jha is an engineering student in Bengaluru, Niraj Bishnoi is a second-year B.Tech student from VIT Bhopal, and Aumkareshwar Thakur holds a Bachelor of Computer Application degree.
It was found during the course of the investigation that all these young tech-savvy youth knew each other and worked on the instructions for someone who is based in Nepal. The common interests of all are they are motivated by Hindutva ideology. All are fired with the zeal to make India a Hindu Rashtra, a la Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
This bunch of young folks created an app called the ‘Bulli Bai’ app where they uploaded photographs of Muslim women mostly social activists and posted them on the GitHub platform on ‘auction’. Bulli Bai is a derogatory Hindi slang used by right-wing Hindu trolls for Muslim women.
These cyber Jihadists targeted Muslim women who were vocal about the rising tide of Hindutva in India. Among those listed for ‘auction’ are prominent Muslim journalists, activists’ lawyers, and public figures. Many among them were active in the anti CAA protests that rocked the country in 2020.
A 2018 Amnesty International report has said that ‘online harassment in India has shown that the more vocal a woman was, the more likely she was to be targeted – the scale of this increased for women from religious minorities.’
The most disgusting aspect of this gory crime was that even Najeeb’s mother was listed in the ‘Bulli Bai’ auction. Najeeb was a JNU student who disappeared from the campus during Kaniya Kumar’s ‘Azadi’ agitation. It is widely believed he has been murdered by the right-wing Hindu activists on campus.
This is the second attempt by cyber Jihadists to harass Muslim women by “auctioning” them online. In July 2021, an app and website called “Sulli Deals” were created with profiles of more than 80 Muslim women, using their photos describing them as “deals of the day” online. Sulli is also a pejorative term used for Muslim women by Hindutva extremists. Then the Delhi Police had registered a case against some unknown persons but made no arrests in the case probably because their hands were tied due to political pressure from above.
In the ‘Bulli Bai’ app case there was no actual ‘auction’ or ‘sale’ that happened but the purpose was to humiliate the Muslim women for being vocal protestors and also to intimidate some 20 crores Muslim population in India and to cow them in submission.
These are two undercurrent themes in the arrests made in the ‘Bulli Bai’ app case. First is there is an organized racket that exists in India comprising of cyber foot soldiers of Hindutva working for the creation of Hindu Rashtra, and the second is to intimidate and humiliate the Muslim population in India.
The Bulli app and Sulli app is a well-planned project with a vast operational network where public and private actors are involved for a common goal to create Hindu Rashtra in India. The operational structure of this network is to use the cyber troops to manipulate public discourse, harass and intimidate independent voices, and unleash a reign of terror through cyberbullying and thus creating a partisan information environment in India.
These Cyber Jihadists are not bothered about the broader implications of their activity on the public discourse in India nor do they care about the sanctity of the country’s democratic processes because they are guided by some vested interests whose objective is creating a Hindu India.
These ideological enriched cyber creatures want to use the power of the internet to have their way in the making of the brand new republic. The few arrests that have been made so far, in this case, could be just the tip of the iceberg and many more sleeping cells could be in place waiting for the instructions to lunch another defamatory app.
It is common knowledge that the BJP IT Cell has a team of core members who guide some 20,000 cyber troops to automate hate and manipulate public perceptions across major social media platforms in India. The top echelon creates exclusive content which is well planned and thought out to impact the target and then it’s shared to the cyber troop to carry out the activities on different internet platforms.
It is public knowledge that the BJP IT cell core team comprises about 150 members who are paid a very high and those belonging to the cyber troop are salary are ideologically committed folks working on hourly wages.
An investigation has found that the “Tek Fog” App is used by the operatives of the BJP IT cell. This is the most potent weapon to harass the critics and intimidate them. This app is the brainchild of a devilish and diabolic mindset. The folks working on this project enjoy the state patronage and are on a mission to create social disharmony in the country.
Thanks to the political resolve of the Shiv Sena government that it gave the ‘go ahead’ signal to the Mumbai police cybercrime branch to tackle this case. The Delhi police cyber branch that has been sleeping over the Sulli app case too became active this time. Both did a swift operation to nab the culprits in no time.
The cyber branch police first found out the IP addresses of the devices from which the pictures were uploaded on the app and through the IP addresses, they found the locations of the culprits. Accordingly, they sent the police team to a different location, and with the help of GPS and IP addresses, they nabbed the culprits.
When police arrested Vishal Kumar Jha from Bengaluru, he informed about Shweta Singh from Uttrakhand, who revealed Mayank Rawat’s name, and in this way, all the culprits were nabbed because they were in touch with each other and made the job easy for the police. While making these arrests the police made it public that there could be many more people involved in the case and those arrested were just the tip of the iceberg.
The message from the cybercrime branch of police was those who believe in the anonymity that the internet provides them are misplaced. They must know that once the resolve to get them is firmed up, it’s very easy to catch them from whichever device they are using for the crime.
As one watches the spectacle of the ‘Bulli Bai’ app case, one thing that emerges clearly is that all the arrests made are from the BJP ruled states. Karnataka, Uttrakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, all are BJP ruled states. So patronage from the state double engine government cannot be ruled out to do such activity.
The ongoing profiling of the Muslims by the Hindutva Jihadists is also an indicator of a skillful campaign scripted by the master strategists in the well-organized IT cell. It’s from there planning of such campaign is designed and the cyber troops are instructed to carry out the hate campaign in a well-orchestrated manner.
It is also seen that under the current political dispensation at the center the hate factories are in full bloom. The hate propaganda, disinformation campaign is part of a well-crafted state policy going on since 2014 to polarize the society. It’s seen that one campaign ends the other is ready for circulation. The entire purpose of such a campaign is to build hatred against the Muslims in India so that Hindus can be united as a vote bank to perpetuate the BJP rule in the country.
The Muslim community has no clue how to counter these hate mongers. They expect the government, the police, the court, the political parties to come to their rescue but their wishes seldom get fulfilled. As a result, they suffer vilification, intimidation, a humiliation in silence. The evildoers through the Bulli app and Sulli app are carrying on their hate campaign.
There is an urgent need to engage conscious people in India to raise awareness about such evil practices going on in the country. The idea of making a counter-strategy to combat such evil designs can only be successful if like-minded people come together for such a specific purpose. The hate factories in India can only be silenced if professionals, technical persons, visionaries take part in this battle of cyber warfare. Only positive spirits of India who want moderation, toleration, and peaceful co-existence can uphold the true spirit of the country.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org