Published: 17th December 2019
The viral face of Jamia's protest, Kerala student Aysha Renna, just got her FB account blocked
Aysha Renna is an MA History student in Jamia Millia Islamia. A photograph of her protecting a friend from the Delhi Police had gone viral
Some photographs get etched in history and your memory. The original negatives may get worn out over time, but their replicas grow to become icons over time, telling stories that books cannot. Case in point, the photograph of Phan Thi Kim Phuc during the Vietnam war.
Similarly, when we discuss the police violence in Jamia Millia Islamia, a few years later, the first thing that you'd remember will be a photograph of a young hijab-clad, spectacle-wearing woman.
Cue in Aysha Renna, a 22-year-old MA History student from Jamia Millia Islamia, whose bravery in standing up to policemen on a rampage has since become a sign of the times. "The photograph is motivating a lot of women, especially a lot of married women in India. They aren't afraid anymore to speak up," she tells us. But this did cause a lot of backlash too. Owing to mass reporting and hate campaigns, Renna cannot post anything on her Facebook wall for the next 30 days - because her account has been blocked.
She shared the distressing news on Twitter, "There has been a targetted campaign against my family and I, in the form of slander, police and intelligence surveillance, online posts and personal attacks. In this light, my family and I have decided to initiate legal action against them [sic]," she tweeted.
Sometimes, life can be cruel and sweet in equal measure.
Dialling it back to the horrors of a few days ago, Renna says, "The police knew no mercy. They beat up everyone that they saw, regardless of gender and age. The protest was never violent, we never crossed or broke the barricades. However, the police's intention was clear. They had to threaten and scare the students of Jamia."
But the police did not break Renna's spirit. Not one bit. In the face of great danger and adversity, this 22-year-old asked the police to go back. Loud and clear, she shouted, "Delhi Police, Go Back." The now-viral photograph of Renna shows her shielding a friend who is being beaten up with her right hand's forefinger pointing towards a police officer. She looks at him fiercely and her body language suggests that she's saying 'No'.
Renna tells us that she'll be going to the streets again, protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act on December 19. But before that, she has work to do. "The Jamia community is emotionally shattered. We're trying to mobilise them and we'll protest again on December 19," she says, confidently. Despite this, Renna says that NRC and CAA have made her feel threatened as an Indian Muslim. "Reject someone's citizenship is equal to genocide. This is our last chance to protest and we will do that," she says.