How the police prevented medical volunteers from working at the CAA protests

01 January 2020
Doctors and medical students protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act at the Jamia Millia Islamia University on 23 December 2019.
Burhaan Kinu / Hindustan Times / Getty Images
Doctors and medical students protested against the Citizenship Amendment Act at the Jamia Millia Islamia University on 23 December 2019.
Burhaan Kinu / Hindustan Times / Getty Images

On 20 December, the Delhi police unleashed a brutal crackdown on a protest march against Citizenship Amendment Act in central Delhi’s Daryaganj area. According to eyewitnesses, the police beat up several protestors that evening. It also detained 31 adults and eight minors. At around 8 pm, when news about the detentions spread, several lawyers and doctors started to gather outside the Daryaganj police station. They asked the police to let them provide legal and medical aid to the detainees, if necessary. But for over two hours, the police refused to let them inside. 

At around 10.30 pm, one doctor and one lawyer was allowed inside to meet the detainees. The doctor was Harjit Singh Bhatti, a 33-year-old who is also the national president of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum. The PMSF is a collective of around hundred doctors from all over the country, which was initially formed to fight the perpetuation of pseudo-science and superstitions. Inside the police station, Bhatti found that the detainees, including the minors, were “wreathing in pain” and in need of medical assistance. 

The crackdown against the ongoing anti-CAA protests across the country has resulted in thousands of people sustaining injuries. Since at least the second week of December, the Delhi police—which operates under the union ministry of home affairs—has used brute force, including lathis, water cannons and tear gas, to quell protests. The situation in BJP-ruled states seems to be similar as well. But the protests have continued. 

Ajay Verma, a 27-year-old member of the PMSF who was also present at the Daryaganj police station, said, “We could see that there were chances of violence at the protest sites, so we planned to make medical help available easily.” The PMSF set up medical camps at protest sites itself. The members of the PMSF have since treated protesters suffering cuts, bruises, wounds and swellings because of lathi charge, and even those who sprained their ankles while running away from the police.  

“It is important to give first-aid and then transfer the injured to hospitals where further medical care could be provided,” Verma said. But, according to him, the police even interfered in the functioning of hospitals at times. “This is not acceptable, hospitals are sacrosanct places where all patients could go without fear whoever they are,” Verma said.  

Nileena MS is a reporting fellow with The Caravan. 

Keywords: Citizenship (Amendment) Act Medical negligence healthcare
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