Public Space — Hospitals
1.1. One of
the most disturbing and sinister truths about some prominent masterminds
behind the Gujarat carnage was the fact that many of them hailed from
the medical profession and, despite their professional allegiance to the
Hippocratic oath, violated it to lead mobs to rape, pillage, maim and
kill and that too, in the most barbaric ways. Dr. Praveen Togadia, Dr.
Jaideep Patel, Dr. Amita Patel and Dr. Bhartibehn, Dr. Maya Kotdani (the
latter three are BJP MLAs) are all doctors by profession who were named
by victims as masterminds and leaders in brutal crimes.
Praveen Togadia, international general secretary of the VHP, is well-
known for his frequent threats of hatred and violence. He is a cancer
surgeon by profession and also owns the Dhanvantri Hospital at India
Colony, Ahmedabad. Doctors belonging to the Muslim minority testified to
the fact that, on February 28, Shri Togadia had put in an ad-slide of
his, which was telecast on Citicable in Ahmedabad city, asking all
doctors and nurses to report to his hospital. He was making this appeal
to all doctors. Many witnesses who deposed before us raised the question
of whether this was also part of a master plan, to keep, through threats
and warnings, Hindu doctors away from Muslim-run hospitals.
AP Ravani spoke of his personal acquaintance and knowledge of (Hindu)
doctors being threatened and told (by the VHP) not to treat Muslims. He
knew of one doctor in the Shahibag area who must have attended to 17-20
deliveries for women staying in camps. The doctor was personally
threatened by Shri Togadia himself, "Stop this, otherwise consequences
will not be good." Other doctors have also confided to Justice Ravani
saying they too had received similar threats.
Ahmedabad’s Sola Civil Hospital received the bodies of the ‘martyred’
kar sevaks at 8 a.m. on February 28. This venue became the scene for
sharp and focussed anger that quickly progressed into the raising of
hate-filled slogans. The VHP organised a religious ceremony where its
vice-president, Acharya Giriraj Kishore said that the day’s violence was
"a natural outburst". He also said, "Islamic terrorism was responsible
for the Godhra incident and that Hindus had acted with restraint." (The
Times of India, March 1).
after the bodies of the kar sevaks had been cremated, from the
evening of February 28, the bodies of another set of victims started
pouring in, this time bearing another identity. They were Muslims from
Chamanpura, Rakhial, Bapunagar, Behrampura, and late, at night, Naroda
Gaon and Naroda Patiya.
‘borders’ drawn within Ahmedabad have ensured a severely ghettoised
existence. This has been an unfortunate fact for the past three decades
and it has had serious implications for inter-community interaction and
relations. In the recent state-sponsored genocide, it was used cleverly
by large, well-organised and well-armed mobs numbering several thousand,
through bloodshed, violence and intimidation, to restrict the
passage of ambulances from the inner, old city to either the Vadilal
Sarabhai (VS) Hospital or the Sola Civil Hospital. This was another
cruel method of preventing victims from receiving urgent medical
least six injured persons rescued from Chamanpura (Gulberg society),
testified before the Tribunal confirming that the VS Hospital had
refused them treatment, demanding that a police statement be obtained
first. This, from a group of persons who had been brutalised and
traumatised, having been witness to 60-70 of their close relations or
neighbours stripped, raped, cut into pieces, and burnt alive.
eyewitness from Jamalpur stated, "The worst conduct was at the Sola
Civil Hospital. Here Bharti behn and Anita behn, both BJP
corporators (Bharti behn is from Mani Nagar), were actually
telling doctors whom to treat or not to treat." At the VS Hospital,
which gave more access to the minorities initially due to the presence
of Congress corporators on the hospital’s managerial board, there were
attempts to deny treatment to Muslims that were not entirely successful.
1.9. Even in
the second week of April, while violence in the city of Ahmedabad had
trickled down to stray incidents, fear stalked public spaces —
hospitals, schools, government offices and even the Gujarat High Court.
One witness told the Tribunal that on April 11, groups of 15-20, armed
with unsheathed swords, stalked the corridors of the VS Hospital each
night and no one challenged them. They did not directly harm or kill but
the message spread through nurses and class IV staff was that the area
was out of bounds for the marked — the Muslim population in Gujarat.
1.10. But no
incident can typify the extent of communalisation of hospitals more than
the brutal murder of a Muslim who had brought a severely injured person
to the VS Hospital by ambulance on May 7, while the Tribunal sat. The
youth was stabbed when he alighted from an ambulance carrying a patient
who had been stabbed in the Juhapura locality. The assailants were
sangh parivar activists who were demonstrating against the alleged
"partisan attitude" of the hospital authorities against Hindu patients.
The fact that such brazen incidents could take place in broad daylight
is a clear indicator that these forces, murderous and threatening, have
no fear of the arm of the law.
1.11. As bad
as the perpetration of crimes by medical professionals during the
Gujarat carnage, and the attempts to brutally communalise hospital
spaces, were the attempt by the police in Ahmedabad and Vadodara to
actually harass and stop ambulance services belonging to the minority
community. At the height of the carnage, these ambulance services were
the only ones to provide desperately needed medical support, reaching
help, saving groups, carrying mutilated bodies, etc. The fact that even
they were stopped, as were trucks carrying relief, indicated the
premeditation of the carnage at the very top levels as also the
genocidal nature of its entire execution.
Several witnesses who deposed before us actually detailed how, in
Ahmedabad, one police officer, stopped the Nobel Ambulance Service
personnel at Bawa Lababi to prevent it from reaching Danilimda, Char
Rasta, Sardarbridge and Calico, despite the fact that they had curfew
Tribunal recorded the written statement of Dr. Ishaq Shaikh,
vice-president, Al Ameen Garib Niwas General Hospital, Ahmedabad. This
40-bed hospital had over-stretched itself in service of the community
from February 28 onwards. He described how, from 12.30 p.m., there was a
flood of patients – virtually a patient per minute. With this pressure
they had to make painful decisions of which patients to treat and which
to leave to their fate.
on February 28, when Dr. Shaikh tried to drive a grievously injured
patient to the Vadilal Sarabhai Hospital in his ambulance, he was
attacked at Raipur between 4 and 5 p.m. When this happened a second
time, mayor Himmatsingh Patel helped them out by calling for an
ambulance from the Ahmedabad municipal corporation.
severe strain on community health services was evidenced during and
after the carnage, with the state abdicating its primary role. In the
numerous relief camps that sprung up across the city/state, there was a
severe problem of clean drinking water, sanitation facilities and
adequate food. Children were suffering from jaundice, a water-borne
disease, diarrhoea and dehydration. One child died in a camp in
mid-April. The strain on small privately run hospitals increased. On
April 3, Dr. Shaikh was brutally beaten by inspectors Modi and Parmar as
he tried to take his ambulance to Shamser Bagh, Gomtipur, where two
persons had been shot in the leg. He was pounced upon by the police and
most appalling state of affairs can be appreciated and properly
understood from the fact that victims and doctors had petitioned the
NHRC, pleading for SRP protection within hospitals. This is a sad
commentary on the situation in Gujarat during those months, and reflects
the depth of communalisation of Gujarati state and society. Muslims were
terrified to go to government run hospitals to claim their dead because
systematic efforts were made to create an atmosphere of dread and terror
there. Menacing groups of Bajrang Dal and VHP youths would stalk the
casualty departments of hospitals, 50-60 at a time.
appears that these were well-organised and coordinated efforts to deny
medical aid to the Muslim community. Since most of the Muslims, dead or
injured, were being taken to VS Hospital, it was made the target of the
mobs. Muslim drivers would be so scared that they would refuse to go
there. In 1992, this sense of fear did not prevail within hospitals.
Though initially the injured were not attacked while in hospital, there
was enormous psychological fear. Hence, victim-survivors started going
to small hospitals, which had neither adequate facilities nor staff.
"They never struck the victims, they merely showed us the swords, but it
was enough to frighten us" said Sharief Khan Pathan of the Nobel
Tribunal also heard the account of a doctor who practised in Vadodara
and another government hospital 40 km away. He stated that in the
virtual deluge of patients pouring into this hospital from on February
28 and March 1, there were injuries on their person that he had never
were countless injuries caused by swords. The mutilation of breasts in
the case of women was common. There were some cases of mutilation of the
penis. In yet another Vadodara hospital, a doctor conducted 17
post-mortems, the majority of whom were women who had been gang-raped.
There were three survivors of gang rape. In one case, the police had
intervened and saved the victim from death. A woman from Kheda district
who was gang raped, had her head shaved and an Om cut into her
head with a knife by the rapists. She died a few days after she was
admitted to hospital. There were other instances of Om engraved
with a knife on the back and other parts of women’s bodies, as well as
of some men. According to the doctors, the deaths of the few Hindus,
both men and women, who were admitted to hospital, were of people who
had disobeyed prohibitory orders and fell victim to violent
Ali Shaikh, Vadodara, a witness who appeared before the Tribunal, ran a
15-bed nursing home in a building near the Panigate police station in
Vadodara. The building is just five minutes away from the police
station, and all the vehicles, mobile vans etc. belonging to the police
station were usually parked outside it. Despite this, his clinic and
everything inside it, including the ICU and expensive medical equipment,
was looted or destroyed on March 1. Two days later, the nursing home was
burnt. As of May, the police had not taken any action in the matter. The
witness tried to return to the premises about three weeks later and to
resume his practice, when he was assaulted by a group of people. He and
his son had a narrow escape. The Tribunal records with shock and horror
that, two-and-a-half months after the crimes, even when insurance
officials visited the building for a survey, the crowd, comprising of
local people who lived around the clinic, did not allow them to enter
the premises. That these incidents could occur in such close proximity
to the Panigate police station makes the whole situation almost
farcical. Another community health centre – the Muslim medical centre in
Bhoiwada was also destroyed and burnt.
Gujarat government is culpable of failure to protect the lives of at
least 2,000 victims. It is also guilty of failure to provide medical aid
and relief to victim-survivors in life-threatening situations.
allow the spaces occupied by doctors and hospitals, which are sacred by
sheer nature of the job they do, to be vitiated by hate speech and
propaganda sounds a serious warning to the extent of percolation of
communal ideology in Gujarat.
1.23. The fact that many
leaders and perpetrators of the crimes are doctors surely behoves upon
the Indian Medical Association to initiate disciplinary action against
them for never can the mandate of a doctor, who’s first job is to save
and preserve life, become exactly the opposite — of being the one to
snatch life away.