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India website offers Muslim women for sale in virtual auction

Protesters from various organisations take part in a demonstration in New Delhi on December 27, 2021, after the Indian police on December 24 said they have launched an investigation into an event where Hindu hardliners called for mass killings of minority Muslims. [SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images]
Protesters from various organisations take part in a demonstration in New Delhi on December 27, 2021, after the Indian police on December 24 said they have launched an investigation into an event where Hindu hardliners called for mass killings of minority Muslims. [SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP via Getty Images]

The racism faced by India's monitories under the far-right ultra-nationalist government of Narendra Modi reached a new low after it emerged that Muslim women were being offered for sale in a fake virtual auction.

Several prominent Muslim women appeared on the auction website, Bulli Bai, which takes its name from a slur against Muslim women. The site was filled with profiles of dozens of Muslim women who were put up for sale.

Most of the women put up for sale were Indian Muslims, and some were high-profile figures, such as the Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai. Many were also opponents of Hindu nationalism who have publicly criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in India.

The website, built on the popular US-based coding platform GitHub, was taken down today following protest. A GitHub spokesman said in an email that it had suspended a user account that violated its policies on harassment, discrimination and the incitement of violence.

Indian authorities are said to have pledged to investigate the incident, which comes as Modi and his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) pursue an ultra-nationalist Hindu supremacist agenda for the country.

Read: 'Please sir mention India', Hindutva Twitter reacts to Netanyahu snub

The BJP's ideology is a toxic mix of ethno-religious nationalism. Despite its demise as a legitimate political idea following World War Two, the racist ideas fused within ethno-nationalism have been resurrected in India.

Minorities face constant threats to their security and basic human rights in ethno-religious states. Last month church leaders warned that Christians face the threat of "extinction" from "radical" Israeli groups seeking to free Jerusalem from its Christian presence.

With the arrival of Modi, Muslims and Christians have faced similar threats in India. The 71-year-old, who himself is accused of orchestrating the 2002 Gujarat pogrom against Muslims, has empowered ultra-nationalist Hindus. There have been attacks on Muslim and Christian sites in different parts of India, with mobs making open calls to "behead" them and stop alleged conversions of Hindus.

Read: Saudi scholar calls for expulsion of Hindu supremacists from the Gulf

On 3 October, a mob of nearly 250 Hindu vigilantes armed with iron rods ransacked a church in Roorkee in the northern state of Uttarakhand, which is governed by the BJP. Pearl Lance, the daughter of the church's pastor, was allegedly molested by men, abused and attacked by women, and her phone snatched. Rajat Kumar, a staff member at the church, was hit with iron rods multiple times on his head, resulting in serious injuries.

"They dragged me by my neck to the ground floor while raining blows on my face and back. I became unconscious after I was hit with a rod on my head," Kumar told Al Jazeera, his right eye badly bruised and swollen.

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