December 18, 2019 / 4:08 PM / a month ago

The hijab-clad students who stood up to Indian police

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - A group of young women have become the face of student-led protests that have swept India in recent days, as opposition has grown against a new citizenship law seen by many as anti-Muslim.

Video of Ayesha Renna and her friends from New Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia university standing up to baton-wielding police hitting a male student on Sunday has gone viral, drawing praise for their courage.

Renna said the women were joining a protest in the Indian capital against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

The act offers Indian citizenship to minorities such as Hindus and Christians from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, but thousands have protested, saying the law is anti-Muslim.

“Suddenly, we saw that people were screaming and running behind,” Renna, a history student, told Reuters.

After a friend felt breathless, they sought shelter in the driveway of a house, Renna said. Police, some wearing riot gear and carrying batons, quickly surrounded them and ordered them to come out.

As they neared the gate, police grabbed hold of a male student accompanying them and started hitting him, said Ladeeda Farzana, who was with Renna.

“We just covered him to protect him because police were beating him like a dog,” Farzana said, holding her bandaged wrist, hours after the incident.

In a video posted on social media, at least three policemen can be seen beating the unarmed male student, until Renna and her friends shout at them to leave.

“When some media persons gathered over there, then they (police) dispersed,” Renna said.

The student was left bleeding from his face.

Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Giles Elgood

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