This is not just a Muslim fight

GIRL

Inside the Anti-Citizenship Act protests rocking

India
Widespread protests and police brutality

By Sanya
Mansoor & Billy Perrigo

As tense
protests about India’s new citizenship law rocked the nation’s capital, four
women tried to form a human shield around their male classmate as police beat
him with sticks. Shaheen Abdulla’s face was bloody as he yelled at his friends
to “go inside.”

The women
locked eyes with police officers, pointing their fingers at them, urging them
to “go away” and leave Abdulla alone. It still hurts. “I feel pain but it’s
fine,” she says. As a video of the encounter went viral on social media,
Abdulla and his friends quickly became a national symbol for resistance. But he
insists that “a lot of heroes came out that night” rescuing each other and
sheltering friends. “We are the only people who were caught on camera,” he
tells TIME.

Critics
also say the law is an affront to India’s secular constitution, which
guarantees different religions equal treatment by the government. “The very
soul of the Indian freedom struggle and constitution was the idea of equal
citizenship for people regardless of their faith,” Harsh Mander, an activist
and former civil servant, told TIME before he was detained on Thursday.

“And it’s
this that they are destroying.” It was at two historically Muslim universities,
Aligharh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia University, where the
police response was most violent firing tear gas and beating students,
according to testimony heard by TIME and video footage posted online.

Police also
stormed the university’s library, firing tear gas at students barricaded
inside. Some students hid in the women’s bathrooms, and police entered, began
beating people and broke the mirrors, students said.

“Students were lying bleeding inside the washroom,” one student who was
present told TIME.

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