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Women activists, journalists condemn hate speech, online auction of Muslim women during virtual event

Screenshot of the Bulli Bai platform. | Photo: Twitter.

On January 8, ANHAD organised a virtual discussion titled Women Against Hate in response to hate speech against India’s Muslims during an event in Haridwar and the recent online ‘auction’ of more than 100 Muslim women whose photos were shared on an app called ‘Bulli Bai’ on GitHub.

Snobar | TwoCircles.net

NEW DELHI — Several leading women activists, and journalists condemned the recent hate speeches made against India’s Muslims and the online auction of more than a hundred Muslim women whose photos were shared on an app called ‘Bulli Bai’ during a virtual event held on January 8. 

The virtual event titled ‘Women Against Hate’ was organized by ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy)—which is an Indian socio-cultural organization founded in March 2003 in response to the 2002 Gujarat riots

Social activist Shabnam Hashmi, sister of the slain activist Safdar Hashmi, one of the founders of Anhad, began the program by giving a brief introduction of Anhad.

‘Culture of hate in country’
Speaking on the occasion, Brinelle D’souza, National Programme Director at Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), said, “I will speak as a feminist and as a Christian with a very heavy heart about what’s happening in the country today—especially, the culture of hate that is being perpetuated with such impunity and which is getting so normalized.”

 While talking about the Haridwar Dharm Sansad (religious parliament), Dsouza said, “Just a month earlier, I was celebrating the withdrawal of the controversial farm laws and the power of people’s movements—but then the Dharm Sansad, organised between December 17 to 19 in Haridwar, Uttrakhand witnessed an extraordinary outpouring of hate speech, mobilisation of violence and anti-Muslim sentiments with calls for ethnic cleansing and genocide of Muslims by religious leaders. Some of whom have close connections with the ruling party”. 

As per reports, the Haridwar event was attended by at least two members of the BJP. After outrage over calls of genocide made against India’s Muslims at the Sansad, police registered an FIR. However, no one has been arrested so far. 

Pertinently, the Supreme Court today issued a notice to the Uttarakhand government seeking its response to a petition against hate speeches at a conclave held in Haridwar last month, Bar and Bench reported.  A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana asked the state government to file a reply within 10 days.

‘Dharam sansad and politics of BJP’
While talking about the relationship between the Haridwar Dharm Sansad and the politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Dsouza said, “Modi government has not yet commented on the Haridwar event, but then after the Prime Minister’s recent speech at Lakpat, Gurudwara in Kach on December 25, one must no longer be silent. Rather, one is a better place to understand the coherence in Modi’s and Yati’s ideology. Henceforth, there should be no problem in understanding the relationship between the Dharm Sansad and the politics of the BJP.”

She said the exhortations of Hindus who take up arms, the calls for Rohingya mass murder and the exodus of Indian Muslims, the toxic fantasy of a Hindu Rashtraso-calledere is no Masjid or Madrasa “are a challenge to the constitution of India.” 

‘Bulli bai app case points to moral decay in society’
Over the recent public auctioning of Muslim women on social media, Saira Shah Haleem, a right activist, said “Bulli Bai app case is an attack on religious identity and a normalization of othering and the dehumanization of Muslims.”

“It points to a deep moral decay as communal elements now openly target, bully and perpetuate sexual violence against women with alarming impunity. The poison of hate that is all around us is having an impact on the rights and well being of people”, Haleem said.

Haleem further said that “Hindutva is an ideology that has progressed from a loose cluster of fringe organisations to a sustained grassroots political movement which has electorally managed to capture state institutions (in India).” 

“Hate mongers know that they have the support of the ruling party and its institutions. Hate is now part of state policy,” Haleem said. 

Haleem noted that “minorities in India are being relegated to second class citizenship.” 

“The genuine foundation of a secular state is fastly diminishing. This poison of hate is going to destroy the entire nation,” she said. 

Silence of BJP govt over hate speech against Muslims
While talking about the silence of the Modi government over hate speech and vilification of India’s Muslims by Hindutva ideologues, Ratna Pathak Shah, an actor and a director, said, “I feel that it is being done deliberately. What is happening in the country is not happening by chance but is a deliberate strategy and effort and that is what makes it extremely reprehensible”.

Shah said she has never seen such expressions of Hindu culture. “I was not brought up in this kind of culture,” she said. 

While talking about the mastermindanti-minority App, she said, “As a Hindu mother, when I see young people spreading hate, I wonder what’s going on. I wonder what their parents must be feeling. The people who are training them to do this are using them for their nefarious ends just to win the next election. I cannot believe that this is my country,” she said. 

Silence of electronic media
On the occasion, Meena Gopal of Mumbai-based Forum against Oppression of Women (FAOW) blamed media for deflecting the issue of hate speech. ” We have a sold-out electronic media. It’s a media that deflects and stages lies. It governs through calculated divisive politics. It perpetuates misogyny along with casteism, anti- minority sentiments,” she said. 

Gopal said that the state and the majoritarian Hindu forces have fused into one entity in India today. 

“From the catcall of Didi-o-Didi to the Sulli and Bulli apps—this perpetuates violence against women. This pitch of violence, hatred, fear, humiliation, stripping people of dignity is strengthening since 2019 through a complete orchestration and shifting of social context,” Gopal said.

While talking about the Haridwar event, Anjali Bhardwaj, a social activist and a founding member of Satark Nagrik Sanghatan said, “When we want to protest, we are supposed to take permission before one week, which is given on conditions—but in this case, the event went on for three days in Hardiwar where speakers spread venom with impunity and the police cannot act—how is this possible?” 

Sanghatan said that institutions (in the country) have to be challenged. “They have to be shown the truth and they have to be asked to do their duty”, she added.

While talking about the online targetting of Muslim women, Arfa Khanum Sherwani, senior editor of The Wire, said, “I think this was the most concerted, the most serious and vicious attack not just on women in general but on Muslim women in particular.”

“This was the attack on Muslim women who are triple marginalized. Muslim women are marginalised for being Muslim, for being women and for being poor, unemployed and uneducated”, Sherwani said.

Sherwani talked about the Shaheen Bagh anti-CAA protest and said, “I am very inspired by this protest. I had never imagined that Muslim women could come out in this way but they did. And the way they did, it was fantastic and all of us saw that and I think till today we recognise the protest as a big mass level challenge to the current regime and current kind of politics”. 

In her concluding remarks, Dsouza said her support and solidarity is for Muslim women. “As an Indian citizen, and as a fellow minority, I want to tell the Muslim community that we are here with you in complete solidarity. We will not allow this hate to continue in every way in any. We will question our institutions and demand accountability,” she said. 

Dsouza said that time has come to no longer remain silent. “The time has come to act and to push and we will push the boundaries of all our institutions. We will push them as minorities and as citizens. They are our institutions”, she added.