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Meet the face of the Jamia students' protest

By SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF
December 17, 2019 11:11 IST
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'We were not bothered about the police beating us.'
'At that time the only thing was that our brother Shahin should be protected. He had come to protect us so it was our duty to protect him.'

 

IMAGE: Ladeeda Sakhaloon, seated, second from left, and friends protect a bleeding Shahin from a police lathi-charge during a protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in New Delhi on December 15, 2019. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Ladeeda Sakhaloon from Kannur district in Kerala has become one of the faces of protests by Jamia Millia Islamia students against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act after she and her friends stood up to the brutal Delhi policecops who were chasing down protesting students and beating them up, a video of the same has gone viral on social media.

A student of BA in Arabic at the Jamia Millia Islamia University, Ladeeda spoke to Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf about what happened on Sunday and why she believes the Citizenship Amendment Act is not good for Indian secularism.

Tell us what happened on Sunday.

The protests were going on very peacefully.

We were moving along with the march.

The police then blocked our march and so the protesters took another route to New Friends Colony.

We don't know what happened after that.

People in front of the march started running towards the back.

They were crying and some were injured.

I clearly remember one of the protesters being injured on the head.

Everyone ran helter-skelter.

My friends and I had no idea what was happening.

We hid behind a tree and the police came to drive us out.

Suddenly, we found that we were all alone facing the police.

The police then fired tear gas at us.

I couldn't even breathe then.

At that particular time my male friend Shahin came to protect us.

You can see him in the video that is on social media.

He intervened and told the police that he had come to take us to hospital as we were not keeping well after tear gas was fired.

But the police did not listen to him at all and they started beating him.

I couldn't breathe so as a desperate measure they (my friends) took me to a house nearby.

We entered the gate of that building.

The police was telling Shahin, 'baahar aa jao (come out).'

We thought that we were all girls and if we cover Shahin, then the police will not touch us for sure.

But somehow they got Shahin and then beat him up like a dog.

We were not even thinking about my own health as I was still finding it difficult to breathe.

Everything was happening so suddenly that when I look back I still cannot believe how my reflexes worked.

Now when I see the video I can't believe what happened.

We were not bothered about the police beating us.

At that time the only thing was that our brother Shahin should be protected.

He had come to protect us, so it was our duty to protect him.

When the government says the Citizen (Amendment) Act is not against Indian Muslims, why are you protesting? It is all about giving citizenship to refugees.

Everyone knows that.

It is just that Muslims have to prove their citizenship.

That is a clear violation of the Constitution.

We want to protect the Constitution of India.

This bill is clearly against Indian Muslims.

This bill is unfair.

We were protesting for our rights.

We need our Constitution.

The Delhi police blames Jamia students for the stone-throwing which led to the police action.

The police were in huge numbers.

Even in that bus burning issue that area is controlled by the police.

How can someone burn the bus?

We have seen that video too (a video has gone viral on social media claiming the police themselves burnt the buses. The Delhi police refuted the allegation).

The Delhi police was lying.

The Delhi police wants to show students as terrorists.

Did outsiders participate in the students's march?

Local people did come.

The police started a lathi-charge and no one was there.

We all ran.

No one was there except us.

We were scared and we thought we will die.

The road was empty and controlled by the Delhi police.

Only Shahin came to support us.

Why do you think the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is dangerous for India?

It is a clear violation of the Constitution.

It is dangerous for India.

We need secularism back.

If the CAA is cleared by the Supreme Court of India, then democracy is dead.

There will be no more Indian democracy and Indian secularism.

Since it is a law now, aren't people obliged to abide by it?

We will not agree (to the Act) as it is a violation of the Constitution.

We will fight. We will fight. We will fight.

We will not agree. Never ever.

What is the future for young Muslims in India?

If a person does not have citizenship, what is going to happen to him or her?

Just imagine, they will have no rights.

No passport. Nothing.

Citizenship is a modern concept.

If a person has to live in any State, he has to have citizenship.

You have seen what has happened to Rohingya refugees.

We have seen their condition, what happens to them when they don't have citizenship.

We cannot agree with the CAA.

This is not justice.

This is not right.

In the social media videos we can see a man in plain clothes beating up your friend. Was he a cop?

There were a lot of people wearing plain clothes who were attacking the students and protesters.

They were not wearing police uniforms.

There were a lot of people like that guy in a red T-shirt (whose image has gone viral on social media).

I don't know who these people were.

What were you shouting at the police?

I was just saying 'go back' to the police.

I got hurt when I covered Shahin from getting beaten up.

Ayesha, my other friend, too got hurt.

Do you feel Muslims are unnecessarily being fearful because of the CAA?

Refugees means what?

We (Muslims) have to prove our citizenship, one generation back and two generation back.

The government can say very easily that we are from Pakistan or Bangladesh.

It is very easy for them as they have the power and authority.

The government can make Indian Muslims as refugees.

They have the power.

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SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF / Rediff.com
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