Students in India have joined in protesting an “anti-Muslim” Citizenship Amendment Bill which was signed into law on Thursday.
The CAB, which would allow Hindu, Christian, Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh immigrants a clear path to citizenship, would not allow the same rights for Muslims.
Critics have stated that the law is an open act of discrimination and turns religion into the main deciding factor for who will be treated as illegal immigrants.
Muslims, who reportedly make up 14% of the population in India, are facing threats to their status in the Hindu-majority country, as well as their safety.
As protests erupt throughout the country, videos have been released showing police beating unarmed students with batons. Reports have stated that some students have been shot while many others have been hospitalized due to their injuries
On Sunday, police reportedly swept through a New Delhi university campus. When students fled into a nearby library for safety, the officers fired tear gas and injured hundreds of protesters, reportedly calling female students “sluts” and “traitors.”
By Monday, protests had spread to several university campuses across India in cities such as Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Chandigarh, Lucknow, and Kolkata.
Imam Usmani, an undergraduate student at Jamia Millia Islamia University, which has a majority-Muslim student body, told the Guardian about the police’s reaction during the protests.
“They fired teargas shells at us, before they resorted to caning us ruthlessly,” the 18-year-old said. “They did not even spare the girls. I received several injuries mostly from the beatings by the police. I fell unconscious. Some senior students took me to a hospital where I received medical treatment.”
Another student present on the JMI campus on Sunday told the Guardian about the ongoing accusations of police brutality.
“The policemen entered the library and mosque inside our campus and beat up the students mercilessly who were studying or offering prayer and in no way were connected to the protests yesterday,” Mohammad Faisal said.
“Police fired teargas shells inside the library. There was a blind student in the library then. He started crying loudly. Police even beat up that student.” the Master’s student alleged.
Amnesty India has responded to the accusations from student protesters, stating that, “Violence against peacefully protesting students cannot under any circumstance be justified. Allegations that the police brutally beat up and sexually harassed students… must be investigated.”
Since these acts of violence began sweeping across university campuses, two brave young women have become the face of the student protests.
— Kanimozhi (கனிமொழி) (@KanimozhiDMK) December 16, 2019
A video showing two 22-year-old students at JMI, Ayesha Renna and Ladeeda Sakhaloon, standing up to the police to save a male friend has gone viral on social media.
In a viral video from #Jamia we saw two young women save a male friend from police lathis by giving him cover. We also saw the same women standing atop a roof raising hands in another viral image. I meet Ladeeda Farzana & Ayesha Renna, sheroes of Jamia & Shaheen whom they saved pic.twitter.com/q8qfvIDMFT
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) December 16, 2019
“They tell women to stay at home and not speak up, but speak up we must. Nobody can take our voice”- 22 year old Ayesha Renna & Ladeeda Farzana -Sheroes from 2 viral images from #Jamia, one in which they save their male friend from lathis, speak to me about Women Leading protests pic.twitter.com/xc2jvO4iUZ
— barkha dutt (@BDUTT) December 16, 2019
“No fear,” the two young women said in a video interview with reporter Barkha Dutt. “They tell women to stay at home and not speak up, but speak up we must. Nobody can take our voice.”
The current Bharatiya Janata Party government in India has defended the legislation, claiming that this was a way to help persecuted Hindu minorities from nearby Muslim countries.
However, leader Narendra Modi is known to have a Hindu-nationalist agenda, which includes wanting to change India to a fully-Hindu nation. The 200 million minority Muslims in India currently fear the possibility of being rounded up into detention camps, then deported.