IMA condemns attack on doctors, nurses during JNU violence


In a strongly-worded statement, the Indian Medical Association has condemned attack on doctors and nurses when they tried providing medical aid to people injured in violence at JNU. If doctors and nurses are not safe in the capital of the country, it speaks volumes about the governance and lack of it, IMA says.

After doctors and nurses were attacked by unknown people on Sunday yesterday near Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) when healthcare workers tried providing first-aid to injured students, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) today issued a strongly-worded statement condemning the violence against doctors.

IMA statement - JNU-Optimized

It says: “IMA condemns mindless violence on doctors and nurses who rushed to treat the injured in JNU”. It then adds saying: “If doctors and nurses are not safe in the capital of the country, it speaks volumes about the governance and lack of it. Time has come for the medical fraternity to devise its own arrangements for defence. How does that reflect on the nation if it cannot protect its doctors and nurses reaching to the injured? Is this a civil war? What is the message that goes out to the world?”

On January 5 evening, a team of doctors and nurses that had reached JNU to provide first-aid to people injured in the violence inside the campus was attacked by unknown people. Dr. Harjit Singh Bhatti, who is the national president of the Progressive Medicos & Scientists Forum (PMSF), had tweeted yesterday saying: “Our team of doctors, nurses & medical volunteers who reached JNU to give first aid to injured students & teachers was attacked by hundreds of goons. Mob manhandled doctors, nurses & threatened them. Our ambulance’s glass and windows broken…”

Doctors of PMSF have for many weeks been attending to people injured in the anti- Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 (CAA) clashes across Delhi. On earlier occasions, doctors belonging to PMSF were prevented from immediately providing first-aid and medical assistance to people injured during the anti-CAA clashes.

The IMA had issued a similar statement on December 22, 2019 condemning police action soon after the incident where the police had barged into a hospital in Mangaluru charging at people injured during protests against CAA and trying to force open the door of many wards. The police had also lobbed a tear gas inside the hospital quite close to the intensive care unit. Use of tear gas in confined spaces is prohibited by international norms and standards.

Law for protecting medical staff

The latest IMA statement also mentions about Home Ministry’s decision to block the Bill against violence on doctors and hospitals. “We wish the concerns of the Home Ministry were bonafide given the nature of the violence that has happened in the capital inside… JNU,” the statement says.

After a series of attacks on doctors by the public, the Health Ministry had drafted the Health Services Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2019, seeking to punish people who assault doctors and other healthcare professionals who are on duty. The Bill, which had proposed a jail term of up to 10 years, was dismissed by the Home Ministry during an inter-ministerial consultation over the draft law.

While the Law Ministry had approved the draft Bill, the Home Ministry had opposed the Bill on the grounds that there cannot be a separate law to protect members of a particular profession. The Home Ministry had maintained that there should be no specific law for a particular profession, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) are sufficient to deal with it.

Calling for more protection for doctors and nurses, the statement says: “IMA demands that the Union Home ministry… ensure safety and security of doctors and nurses who reach out to the injured and wounded.”

Published in The Hindu on January 6, 2020