Faces of three Jamia students from Kerala had gone viral on Sunday evening. A video clip posted on social media showed a group of ‘restrained’ baton-wielding policemen dragging a male student out and pouncing upon him. Four women then rushed to his rescue and confronted the policemen, forcing them eventually to back off.
By Monday morning, their resistance became the image of the protests against police brutality. The women shielded Shaheen, also from Kerala, despite the policemen swinging their batons menacingly and indiscriminately.
While talking to NH on Monday, they said that they escaped by the skin of their teeth only because the policemen realised they were being photographed by a group of bystanders.
The young girl in a maroon hijab is Aysha Renna and just behind her in a grey hijab is Ladeeda Sakhaloon while the young man who is seen desperately trying to close the gate behind them, but who was dragged out by the policemen, is Shaheen Abdullah.
“On Sunday, we were not even at the front. We were the last of the protestors marching through Sarai Jullena. Suddenly we found students marching ahead running back. We didn’t know what was happening. But we saw policemen hurling tear gas shells and we also quickly backed away.”
“We attempted to hide behind a tree, but the policemen came after us. By then Ladeeda, who is asthmatic, was gasping for breath and had begun to choke. So, we ran into a nearby house thinking the police would not chase us, as we are women,” recalled 22-year-old Aysha, a post graduate history student at the University and a resident of Malappuram.
They were under the facile and false impression that since there were no policewomen around, the men in uniform would not go against the law and manhandle them.
“I am asthmatic, and the tear gas was choking me. There were two other girls with us, who had been beaten up and we wanted them to get first aid. We had gone into the house thinking that we would be safe, but the police followed us there too. And that is when we decided to shout slogans against them,” recalled Ladeeda.
“We were confident that male cops would not raise their hands at us, but instead they saw us as if we were not human beings deserving of any consideration,” exclaimed Ladeeda with a wince. A resident of Kannur and a BA Arabic student, she is pursuing her second undergraduate degree, after completing her first bachelor’s in economics from a college in Kerala.
“Shaheen had come back looking for us as we had strayed away from the main protest. And then when he was helping us get to safety, the policemen attacked,” adds Aysha , who has known Shaheen since they were both students in Farook College in Kozhikode.
Shaheen, a young journalist with Maktoob Media who is pursuing his post-graduation in Convergent Journalism from AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, said he was worried when he found the girls missing. But when he decided to go back and look for them, the policemen decided to beat him up.
“I tried explaining that I am a journalist, but that did not matter. They simply wanted to thrash us. I told them that we were not protestors, but they simply did not want to listen,” added Shaheen.
All of them managed to get to the Holy Family hospital later where Ladeeda was given oxygen and others were allowed to leave after being administered first aid.
Both Ladeeda and Aysha firmly believe that they got away without much harm because there was media recording the incident. “Thank goodness there were a few people there. Even with them, the cops were unrestrained. There was a policeman in plainclothes too. He is not supposed to wield a lathi,” added Ladeeda.
Aysha’s husband Asal Rahman, a freelance journalist, was beaten up at another protest a couple of days ago. “My husband was not there with me on Sunday, but he has been coming for our protests too. Our parents are supportive of our protests. They understand the discrimination which will begin with the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act. It is to strip us of our rights as citizens,” asserts Aysha. Agreeing with her, Ladeeda added that her parents have always encouraged her to fight against injustice.
These two young girls along with Chanda Yadav were also seen leading protests and shouting slogans atop a wall a few days ago. The photograph of the three girls addressing the protesters had also become an instant hit.
“We will speak up. What is there to fear? If we do not speak up now, when will we be heard?”, they asked defiantly.