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TISS union election: 'Bulli bai' app victim elected as new VP

TISS union election: Bulli bai app victim elected as new VP

Mumbai: Nidha Parveen, 22, was chosen as the new vice-president of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Students' Union ten months after her name surfaced as one of 100 Muslim women whose details were made available on Bulli Bai, an application created on the open source platform, GitHub, which allowed users to participate in their "auction."

Before enrolling at TISS to pursue a postgraduate degree at the Centre for Criminology and Justice at the institute's School of Social Work, Parveen, a native of Kannur, Kerala, studied at Delhi University and participated in the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)/National Register of Citizens (NRC) movement in 2019.

Parveen is a national executive member of the Fraternity Movement, the students' wing of the Welfare Party of India. She is also the president of Fraternity TISS, where they have a membership of just 12 students on campus. Despite that, she was able to bag 676 votes over her main opponents, Progressive Students Federation and SATH (Students' Association for Transformation and Harmony) who secured 393 and 221 votes respectively, and get elected as the new vice-president.

Parveen ran for election as a member of an alliance created by The Ambedkarite Students' Association (ASA). The coalition supported candidates who were Dalit, Adivasi, Muslim, Northeastern, and queer, and they went on to win 10 out of 11 positions. Shivani Ilangovan, a leader among Dalit students, was chosen as the new general secretary, and Pratik Permey, a queer and tribal student activist, was named the new president.

As the first gender-fluid person to be elected to the position of president of the students' union, Permey, a student at the School of Social Work, made history, according to Digamber Surlata, a PhD candidate at TISS and a member of ASA.

Permey said, "With this election, we have hoisted a flag representing the ignored, invisible, marginalized voices."

"The win was unexpected. Two weeks of campaigning was stressful," said the hijab-wearing Parveen while wearing a grey and white salwar kameez.

Praveen recounted a time when she was campaigning and a male student stated she couldn't use "the Muslim card." "I was addressing a class and I started my speech saying, 'As a student, as a Muslim woman', and a male student said I can't use the Muslim card. About 100 students applauded him. When we assert our identity, we get to know what others think of our identity," she said.

In July 2021, unauthorized uploads of images of various Muslim women were made via the app "Sulli Deals" for an online "auction", that was later removed. "But since there was no action taken against those who created the app, we knew it would happen again because there is a lack of belief in the justice system," said Parveen.

Parveen's personal data was among other Muslim women's that were made public on the Bulli Bai app in January 2022 in an effort to malign and humiliate them by allowing users to participate in their virtual "auction."

"The experience still haunts me. When I talk about it, I am told that I am playing the Muslim card, the victim card. It has come back here (on campus) too. But when I ask them about the Bulli Bai app case, they don't know about it," she said. "They are quick to call me Taliban, but don't want to talk about real issues in the country."

According to Parveen, the Progressive Students Federation—a group of left-leaning students—is where most Muslim women are represented on the TISS campus. "But they don't assert their identity because they want to be in a safe space. If they do, they are tagged jihadists, Islamists or conversations become communal."

Parveen will address concerns about financial aid, scholarships, and accommodation options for students in her capacity as vice president. "Regardless of the hate campaign, we won. This means people are ready to hear us when we assert our identity. That to me is hope."

In 2019, she led the anti-CAA/NRC movement as a student in Delhi.

"As a Muslim living in India, I had to participate in the anti-CAA movement to fight for our self-respect and dignity. I knew we would be targeted," said the first-generation learner in her family.

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TAGS:Fraternity MovementASATISS Union election
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