4 students, including girl, in auction scam in India insulting outspoken women



Four students, all in their late teens or early twenties, have been arrested in India so far in connection with a shocking scam in which women, particularly those who have been vocal on social and political issues, were put up for ‘auction’ on the web pages hosted on code-sharing platform GitHub.

The controversy surfaced on Jan 1 when morphed images of hundreds of women were found listed on an app called ‘Bulli Bai’, hosted by GitHub. The photographs, posted without consent, included those of several journalists and activists.

The app appeared to be a clone of ‘Sulli Deals’, which had triggered a row in July last year by offering users a ‘sulli’ – an insulting term used by right-wing trolls for Muslim women. That was also on GitHub.

The Mumbai police arrested Vishal Kumar Jha, 21, from Bangalore in Karnataka on Jan 4, followed by Shweta Singh, 18, and her friend Mayank Rawat, 20, from Uttarakhand a day later. Jha, who hails from Bihar, is an engineering student; Rawat is a final-year BA student in Delhi.

The Mumbai police claimed that Shweta Singh was the mastermind of the scam and the trio used Sikh names in their Twitter handles promoting the webpages to mislead people and divide the two minority communities.

Niraj Bishnoi

On Jan 5, a special cell of the Delhi police arrested Niraj Bishnoi, 20, a student of computer science in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, from his residence in Jorhat, Assam. The Delhi police described him as the creator and main conspirator behind the ‘Bulli Bai’ app and holder of the ‘Bulli Bai’ Twitter handle.

They said the others arrested by the Mumbai police were only following Bishnoi’s instructions. They also said the arrest was carried out on the basis of technical surveillance and not on the basis of information divulged by any of the other suspects.

Based on a complaint filed in the matter, the Delhi police had registered a first information report. The Mumbai police have also registered an FIR against unidentified persons following complaints about the doctored photographs put up for ‘sale’. The Mumbai force is also probing the earlier ‘Sulli Deals’ case.

Meanwhile, a Twitter user, suspected to be from Nepal, claimed on Wednesday that he was the real creator and mastermind of the ‘Bulli Bai’ app and offered to share the username, password and source code used to create the app. The user also published an archive link.

“You have arrested the wrong person, Slumbai police,” the Twitter handle @giyu44 said. “I am the creator of #BulliBaiApp. Got nothing to do with the two innocents whom you arrested, release them asap.” The Mumbai police said they were working to trace the owner of the handle.