A group of women is being hailed across India for their defiant bravery after a video went viral on social media, showing them confronting baton-wielding police officers to save their friend during a protest in capital New Delhi.
The women, all in their early 20s and students at Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) university, were among the thousands of people agitating against the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act on Sunday.
Soon, a police contingent in riot gear, armed with batons and guns, began chasing the demonstrators.
The women, who were joined by a male friend, said they ran for safety inside a house in the New Friends Colony, an upscale neighbourhood located near the university.
But as soon as they huddled against the front wall of the house, sandwiched between two cars parked there, a group of about half a dozen police officers appeared.
The police officers, who had wrapped handkerchiefs around their faces, kept asking them to come out, even as the women, cornered in a stranger’s house, asked them to leave.
In the video, at least one of the men with a baton does not appear to be a policeman. He is wearing a red tee-shirt and jeans, which he is hiding under a police helmet on his head and a green jacket.
“Aa ja, aa ja. Oye baahar le lo, baahar [Come outside. Let’s take them out],” suggested a policeman as others waited, flashing their batons at them.
“Please leave us alone, let us get out,” shouted the women.
Within moments, two police officers reached out and grabbed their male friend by the collar of his jacket from behind, and pulled him outside.
As soon as the young man is dragged out and thrown on the pavement, the policemen charge on him with their sticks, swearing expletives in Hindi as they rain blows over his crouched body.
The women rush to their friend’s rescue. One of them throws herself at him to save him from the baton attack, while others surround him. He is now bleeding.
— Natasha Badhwar (@natashabadhwar) December 15, 2019
“There were no lady cops with them, so we thought police will not beat us or touch us and we can very easily save our male friend,” Ladeeda Farzana, a 22-year-old student of Arabic literature, told Al Jazeera. But it was not that easy.
While the policemen appeared to be unperturbed by the women’s protest, the group remained firm and defiant. The men with the batons were forced to stop, and could only manage one final blow at the man’s leg, triggering a protest from Farzana.
Police used abusive language as we were rescuing our friend. They even hit us as well with their sticks,” she told Al Jazeera. They began to shout “go back, go back; Delhi police, go back” as the policemen continued to surround them.
Not too far from where they confronted the policemen, a few vehicles, including buses, were burning. The men left.
“The only thing on my mind at that time was to save my friend,” said 22-year-old history student, Aysha Renna, who was the first to confront the policemen.
“I never thought we will be in such a situation. But, there was no point in backing off.”
Chanda Yadav, a bachelor’s student from Uttar Pradesh state, who was also among the women, said she was not scared of the police.
“Even if the police would have beaten me as well, I would have had no regrets,” she told Al Jazeera.
‘Blessed with a better half like her’
The brave women from Jamia Millia Islamia university are being hailed on social media for confronting the police and saving a male friend.
“How to rescue a victim during a lynching incident. Real life demo by women students of Jamia,” wrote author Natasha Badhwar on Twitter.
“Salute to your courage,” wrote Facebook user Azhar Ajju, sharing the video.
“Brave girls. This is what real families do to protect each other, physically and mentally,” wrote another user.
Campaigner Bilal Zaidi, who shared a longer version of the video of the attack on his Facebook page, asked: “Who needs lynch mobs now?” But perhaps the most touching response to the bravery of the women came from Renna’s husband and journalist, Afsal Rahman CA.
“I don’t know how much I should bow down before Allah to be blessed with a better half like her. More power to you my girl Renna. He will reward you for all the pains you bear,” the proud husband posted on Facebook.