Creator of original hate app circulated its code

Identifying the person as Aumkareshwar Thakur, 26, the police said he was arrested from his house in Newyork City Township Indore on Saturday evening.
Representative image for Bulli Bai app case (Shutterstock)
Representative image for Bulli Bai app case (Shutterstock)
Published on Jan 09, 2022 11:46 PM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

A man who allegedly created the first GitHub webpage where doctored photographs of Muslim women were uploaded back in July 2021 to “auction” them has been arrested, the Delhi Police said on Sunday.

Identifying the person as Aumkareshwar Thakur, 26, the police said he was arrested from his house in Newyork City Township Indore on Saturday evening. This is the first arrest made in the “Sulli Deals” case, the police said. The development came after recent arrests in a similar case.

The Intelligence Fusion and Strategic Operations (IFSO) unit of the Delhi Police’s special cell said Thakur’s arrest came after receiving information about him from “Bulli Bai” case mastermind Neeraj Bishnoi during investigation. Bishnoi has been arrested for creating webpages targeting Muslim women after such portals first surfaced in July 2021 under “Sulli Deals”.

Thakur was a member of a group on Twitter where the plan to defame Muslim women was discussed, according to deputy commissioner of police KPS Malhotra, head of Delhi’s cybercrimes cell. Thakur has a bachelor’s degree in computer application from IPS Academy in Indore and works as a freelance web developer.

“He had developed the code on GitHub and its access was with all the members of the group. He had shared the app on his Twitter account. The photos of the Muslim women were uploaded by the group members,” Malhotra said.

“He had joined a group on Twitter by the name of Tradmahasabha in January 2020 using the Twitter handle @gangescion. During group discussions, the members had discussed about trolling Muslim women. He had developed the app on GitHub. After the uproar over the first app, he had deleted all his social media footprints,” Malhotra added.

Thakur was arrested three days after police arrested Bishnoi, 21, a resident of Jorhat in Assam, on Wednesday night. The police on Saturday morning said Bishnoi, a second-year B Tech student, was part of a group involved in making the first webpage.

In the 24 hours before he was arrested on Wednesday night, Bishnoi posted tweets through his Twitter handle, claiming that he knew the makers of the first GitHub webpage under the name “Sulli Deals” and that he had “cloned the repository” and “edited the code as well the graphics” to build the second such platform, “Bulli Bai”.

Malhotra confirmed that it was Bishnoi’s interrogation that led the police to Thakur.

“Bishnoi used to interact with various virtual identities on social media and engaged in group discussions. In July 2021, in one of the groups, of which Bishnoi was member, the other group member shared the details of the first GitHub app,” he said. “That was the first time Bishnoi had heard about this app. The said Twitter handle was backtracked and it was learnt that after uproar over first app, the said Twitter handle and other digital footprints were erased from various social media platforms.”

“Bishnoi also said that the Twitter handle belongs to a person who stays in Indore,” Malhotra said. “Based on backtrack analysis and archive data, one Twitter handle in the name of Aumkar Thakur was identified, and our team arrested him from Indore on Saturday.”

Another official said that there were 13 to 14 members of the Twitter group when the first app was planned. “Bishnoi and Thakur had not met in person till then. They had spoken to each other over video call once or twice. They downloaded photographs on the group. Thakur then used it to building the first app,” the officer said requesting anonymity.

During interrogation on Sunday, Bishnoi told the police that he wanted to frame a person from his rival camp on social media as the creator of the first app. Before his arrest, Bishnoi, through his Twitter handle @giyo44, claimed that a person named Javed Alam was behind the first app, officials said.

“Bishnoi wanted to frame Alam. He said Alam is from a rival group on Twitter. He was even planting the codes of the app on a Twitter ID in the name of Javed Alam. His plan was to get Alam arrested in the first case,” the officials said.

In Indore, Thakur’s family refused to believe the police’s theory and news reports. “My son told me over the phone that he has not done anything wrong,” his father Akhilesh Thakur said. “Some accused took his name and he is being implicated wrongly.”

Originally from Darbhanga in Bihar, the family shifted to Indore 32 years ago.

“My brother completed his Bachelor of Computer Application in 2017-18 from a private college in Indore. He was not active on any social media platform for the past more than a year. He was busy with his IT projects. He was earning well for the past four years,” Thakur’s brother Mandaleshwar said. “He never did anything wrong. He is being implicated in a false case.”

Even as Thakur’s family denied wrongdoing, police officers who questioned him said that the man had a different personality in the virtual world.

Thakur identified himself as “trad” on Twitter and was in a Twitter group, said an investigating officer, who asked not to be named. “Trads” have a self-created philosophy of ensuring that the world does not change, the officer said.

“Even Bishnoi claimed to be a trad on Twitter, which means he is a traditional. In fact, Bishnoi in his Twitter posts had also said that the three suspects arrested by Mumbai police in the second app case were innocent as they were not trads like him,” the officer said. “Thakur identified himself as a trad and had joined the Tradmahasabha group in 2020. We have recovered his electronic device and are trying to trace its contents.”

The police are now trying to trace other members of the group, who uploaded the photographs or were part of the Tradmahasabha in 2020.

The two controversial webpages on GitHub in July 2021 and January 2022 sparked outrage, after which the Delhi Police registered a case. After the second webpage was widely circulated on social media, many people filed complaints in Delhi and Mumbai.

The police in Mumbai and Delhi are separately investigating the case. The Mumbai Police have arrested three people in the case – Sweta Singh (18), her friend Mayank Rawat (20), both residents of Uttarakhand, and Vishal Kumar Jha (21), an engineering student from Bengaluru. The three shared the app and promoted it on social media handles, according to the police.

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Friday, May 20, 2022