A group of Muslim women who formed a barricade around a male student that was being attacked by police swinging batons have become symbols of the protest currently engulfing India.
A video of four women surrounding the young man from police as they thrash him with riot gear known as “lathi” went viral on social media.
They then wag their fingers at the officers and scream “go back, police, go back” during the protest in New Delhi on Sunday. The protests were a result of the passing by parliament the previous week of a legislation that allowed people from three neighboring countries to get Indian citizenship. However, excluding Muslims.
According to Islamic groups, opposition and rights groups, this is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda to remodel India as a Hindi nation. He, however, denies this.
The women from Sunday’s incident are being interviewed from various media channels. The finger-wagging image is being used for posters for protest. A Chennai artist has illustrated the image that has spread online.
“We don’t have any fear of this government, the police or anyone,” one of the women, history student Ayesha Renna, 22, told an Indian television channel.
The clashes on Sunday night saw vehicles burnt and Delhi security forces ransack a university have sparked immense anger about alleged police brutality, adding fuel to the fire.
“Students have the right to protest. Violence against peacefully protesting students cannot under any circumstance be justified,” rights group Amnesty International said on Monday.
Jamia Millia Islamia university vice-chancellor Najma Akhtar said Monday that 200 people were injured but police put the number at 39 students and 30 officers hurt. One of them was critically injured.
Police spokesman MS Randhawa said four buses, 100 private vehicles and 10 police bikes were damaged, and that officers exercised “maximum restraint, minimum force” despite the provocation.