The cops then whacked him with their batons, taking turns raising them like baseball bats as he curled up on the ground.
But within a few seconds, five young women came running to his aid, forming a human shield around him as the police continued to jab at him with their sticks.
As one of the women lay on top of the man to protect him from the blows, another stood up to confront the police, wagging her index finger and screaming at them as they raised their batons again. “You won’t do anything!” she can be heard shouting in Hindi. Another woman called out, “We are not doing anything!"
“Go back, go back!” the young women shouted.
Footage of the altercation, which took place Sunday as thousands of people gathered to protest a new law that cites religion as a criterion for Indian citizenship, went viral as reports emerged that hundreds of students from the university were injured in clashes with police. Authorities said two dozen police officers were also hurt.
The Washington Post reported that a physician at a hospital in Delhi said at least two protesters had to seek treatment for bullet wounds.
The group seen in the viral video told Al Jazeera they were participating in demonstrations Sunday but fled to a stranger’s house near the campus to avoid clashes with police. It was from there that police eventually dragged the young man and began beating him.
Opponents to the law say it is a clear violation of India’s secular foundation. The legislation will pave the way for certain non-Muslim migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to seek Indian citizenship. India is a predominantly Hindu country, but about 200 million Indians practice Islam. Critics see the new law as just one among several measures pushed through by Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi that they say have effectively rendered Muslims second-class citizens.
Ayesha Renna, a 22-year-old woman who confronted police in the viral video, told Al Jazeera, “The only thing on my mind at that time was to save my friend.”
“I never thought we will be in such a situation,” she said. “But, there was no point in backing off.”
Barkha Dutt, a New Delhi-based TV anchor and contributing columnist to The Post’s opinion section, posted a video on Twitter interviewing Renna and Ladeeda Farzana, one of the other women in the video, alongside their injured male friend, whom they named only as Shaheen.
Speaking to Dutt, Renna and Farzana said they felt no fear in the face of the police and that their families were proud of them for speaking up. By Monday afternoon, the interview had been viewed 195,000 times.
When Dutt asked them what message they would share with other young women who saw them confront the police, Renna replied, “If you see any injustice in the society . . . just get out, raise your voice."
She said women should push back against men who try to keep them inside.
“Raise your voice, wherever you want to raise the voice, it is your right, it is your voice,” she said.