India's Javed Akhtar under fire after asking victims to forgive woman who 'auctioned' Muslim women online

Updated 05 Jan, 2022 04:48pm

Images Staff

The screenwriter believes that because the alleged Bulli Bai mastermind is an 18-year-old orphan, she deserves compassion.

Indian poet and screenwriter Javed Akhtar has landed himself in hot water after tweeting a suggestion that women victims can "educate" the 18-year-old alleged mastermind behind Bulli Bai — an app where Muslim women were offered for a sale — and forgive her.

The auction list on the application included the names and pictures of multiple Indian Muslim women, including Akhtar's wife Shabana Azmi, as well as other prominent Muslim women such as Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai.

This isn't the first time Muslim women have been targeted in this manner — last year, the 'Sulli Deals' also sought to auction off Muslim women. According to Al Jazeera, both Bulli and Sulli are derogatory terms associated with Muslim women in local slang.

Akhtar's January 5 tweet urged the women involved or "some of them" to meet the woman "and like kind elders make her understand that why what ever she did was wrong". He called for "compassion" and forgiveness, his reasoning being that the young woman had lost both her parents.

But his faulty reasoning was immediately called out on Twitter. One user told Akhtar to back off as he "is not a victim".

One person asked how being angry at losing her parents translated into auctioning women online.

One woman asked him to stop it. "If you can't not [sic] use your position and privilege to ask bigger questions and seek accountability, then please don't speak at all. This is not exceptional behaviour. This is majoritarian radicalisation that needs attention. Now."

One was appalled how "easy" it was for Akhtar to forgive the victim.

He also got called out for not applying the same principle of forgiveness and compassion when he filed a defamation case against Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut.

Another user reminded the screenwriter that the young woman seemed to have little compassion herself.

People were angry at him for poking his nose in the matter.

Others were incredulous that he expected forgiveness at all.

Just two days earlier, Akhtar had criticised Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not speaking on the matter and for his silence on a Hindutva conclave held against Muslims.

It is easy for Javed Akhtar to call for forgiveness and compassion when he has no stake in the matter. The crimes were committed against Indian Muslim women and they alone should be allowed to make the choice whether to forgive or not. Men like Akhtar have no place in this discussion and definitely have no right to ask the victims to forgive someone. Based on his logic, losing her parents means the young woman should be exonerated of her crimes but not all people who lose their parents become criminals and try to sell women online.