New Delhi: The Delhi Police have filed 2,000-page and 700-page charge sheets in the Bulli Bai and Sulli Deals cases respectively, which state that the accused “targeted girls from various communities”, “defamed” Muslim women, and “intended to create disharmony”, ThePrint has learnt.
Both cases refer to Muslim women, mostly from India, being put up ‘on sale’ online, seemingly in a bid to target and harass them, which had triggered outrage on social media. Photographs of Muslim women journalists, activists, analysts, artists and researchers were put up “for auction” on the now-defunct ‘Sulli Deals’ website and ‘Bulli Bai’ app, a clone app of Sulli Deals, on software development platform GitHub. Sulli is a derogatory slang for Muslim women.
Referring to 20-year-old Niraj Bishnoi — who police sources said is the “main accused” in the Bulli Bai app case — the relevant charge sheet said: “The app created by him is not only illegal but also inhuman as it targeted girls from various communities.”
The charge sheet in the Sulli Deals case stated that main accused, 25-year-old Aumkareshwar Thakur — who was apprehended in Indore in January — “intended to create disharmony between communities and to defame women of the Muslim community”.
Both charge sheets were filed by the Delhi Police’s cyber cell unit ‘CyPAD’ on 4 March in the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court in the national capital.
The Mumbai Police had also filed a charge sheet in the ‘Bulli Bai’ app case last Friday. A total of six people were arrested in the case, including Bishnoi and Thakur.
While the Sulli Deals case made news last July, the ‘Bulli Bai’ app surfaced in January this year.
Bishnoi ‘used VPN’ to hide his actions
On 1 January, morphed images of hundreds of women were found listed on the ‘Bulli Bai’ app as up for ‘auction’, causing an uproar on social media.
Bishnoi, a second year B.Tech. student, is alleged to have been one of the propagators in the ‘Sulli Deals’ case as well.
“Bishnoi was well aware of the negative repercussions of the Bulli Bai app and used VPN to hide actions,” the charge sheet, accessed by ThePrint, noted.
Bishnoi, who was arrested from Assam’s Jorhat, has been booked under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion, race), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration), 354A (sexual harrasment), 509 (word or action to insult modesty of woman) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), as well as sections of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The chargesheet also mentions evidence collected from Bishnoi’s laptop and that the Gurmukhi script was used in coding the app.
“Database showed that Bishnoi uploaded the data of the 102 Muslim women. He further used Gurmukhi script for coding to misdirect the investigation (that it was created by a member of the Sikh community) and create fallouts between the Sikh and Muslim communities,” a police source said.
“This is still a pending investigation. We are yet to get a response from Twitter on some handles,” the source said.
Sources had earlier stated that Bishnoi had tried to mislead them using a Muslim alias in the Sulli Deals case.
‘10 Twitter handles propagated Sulli Deals content’
Sources said that Sulli Deals charge sheet mentions that over 10 Twitter handles propagated the content on the now-defunct website that was conducting an “auctioning” of Muslim women including activists, journalists etc.
Asked about evidence against Aumkareshwar Thakur, the police source told ThePrint: “We are yet to receive the FSL (forensic) report of his gadgets. This is still pending in investigation. The chargesheet includes his discussions in the ‘Tradmahasabha’ group.”
The source added that Thakur had wiped off his digital footprint from all his devices.
ThePrint had earlier reported that in January 2020, Thakur had joined a Twitter group called ‘Tradmahasabha’, according to the police.
Deputy Commissioner of Police (IFSO) K.P.S. Malhotra had said at the time of Thakur’s arrest in January this year that members of the ‘Tradmahasabha’ had during various group discussions discussed trolling Muslim women, and that was when Thakur developed the code/app on GitHub.
“During preliminary interrogation, Aumkareshwar Thakur admitted that he was member of a ‘Trad’ group on Twitter and the idea was shared to defame and troll Muslim women,” DCP Malhotra had said after Thakur’s arrest.
“Aumkareshwar Thakur intended to create disharmony between communities and to defame women of the Muslim community,” the charge sheet in the Sulli Deals case states. The 25-year-old Thakur was arrested from his house in Indore, six months after the registration of the FIR last July.
He was booked under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on the basis of religion, race), 153B (imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and sections of the IT Act.
“We are still investigating both the cases,” the source said, adding that the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty procedure (to seek information about the app from its foreign-based hosting platform) is on in both cases.
Mumbai Police charge sheet draws attention to ‘Tradmahasabha’
The Mumbai Police have also filed a 2,000-page charge sheet in the ‘Bulli Bai’ case.
Sources in the Mumbai Police said investigation is ongoing and the group ‘Tradmahasabha’ played an integral role in the creation of both the apps.
“Bishnoi and Thakur are just the second layers. They were directed by others. Bulli Bai is a clone app of Sulli Deals. There are at least 56 members of the ‘Tradmahasabha’ group that helped in the publishing and propagating the contents of the apps,” a senior Mumbai Police officer who did not wish to be named, told ThePrint.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)