Amidst the ongoing protests across the country by students and people against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the proposed all-India National Register of Citizens, we as medical professionals, healthcare workers, health activists would like to raise serious concerns regarding the use of excessive force by the police and their attempts to interfere with the provision of immediate medical assistance to those who have been injured.
Several media reports have mentioned the use of tear gas shells, lathi charge, rubber bullets and other violent measures by the police authorities to curb students and people from peacefully protesting. Moreover, there have also been reports about the police restricting the access to medical assistance for the injured protestors.
According to testimonies of injured protestors, the police interfered with their right to medical assistance, including taking injured students from the hospital to the police station before their medical care needs were addressed.
In fact, in some cases, the police also attacked the hospitals where the injured persons have been admitted. In a report published on the News Minute on 20th December, CCTV footage from the Highland Hospital in Mangaluru on 19th December showed two Karnataka police personnel rushing through a corridor and trying to open a door in a ward by kicking it down by using lathis, shields and by kicking at it.
When police enter hospitals and emergency departments it can have a detrimental effect on patient care. It is unfortunate to see that the law enforcement agencies are not only stopping people from accessing medical care but they are also forcefully entering hospitals where the injured have been taken.
That has raised concerns that in the future protesters requiring medical care might avoid the hospital system for fear of arrest.
We want to draw the attention of the authorities to the United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, which requires law enforcement officials to ensure that assistance and medical aid are rendered to any injured or affected persons at the earliest possible moment, whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable.
We also condemn the alleged attitude of some of the medical personnel who taunted the injured students, calling them anti-nationals. If true, it is unfortunate that the physicians failed to uphold the highest standards of medical ethics when dealing with their patients. Injured people, themselves, are rarely in a position to advocate for their own medical and legal needs during emergency care. Traumatic injuries can limit the ability to fully consent to legal interrogation. Once a person is transported from the scene of an injury and into a health system, health care ethics and laws obligate clinicians to protect patients’ rights, confidentiality and dignity.
We appeal to police authorities to actively support the medical community and allow unhindered access to medical treatment for all injured. We also urge the government and courts to independently and impartially investigate the allegations against the police authorities for hindering medical assistance to the injured protesters and hold accountable those responsible.
Saheli Women’s Resource Center, New Delhi
Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Mumbai
Dr Roshine Mary Koshy, MD, Karimganj, Assam
Prathap Tharyan, Retired Professor of Psychiatry, Vellore
Dewal Sunita Arun, Health Care Provider, Jan Swasthya Sahyog
Dr. Gopal Dabade, President, Drug Action Forum-Karnataka
Suhas Kolhekar, NAPM
Ramani Atkuri, Public Health Physician, Bhopal
Dr. Anand Zachariah
Dr Mira Shiva, Public Health Physician
Dr. Sanjay Nagral
Dr. Nafis Faizi
Dr. Amar Jesani, Independent Researcher/Teacher, Bioethics & Public Health, Mumbai
Vasundhara Rangaswamy, Health Professional, Independent
Akhila Vasan, Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali
Dr. Vandana Prasad
Prabir KC, Independent Public Health Consultant
Dr Mathew S Thomas, MD, Bihar
Dr Anita Collins. Vishakapatnam
Dr Pradeep Ninan, Pediatric Surgeon
Prof. Mohan Rao, former professor at JNU
Harsh, Post graduate student of Community Medicine, Vellore
Dr Sylvia Karpagam, Public health doctor and researcher
Dr. Hafiz Muhammed Koyappathody
Dr. Santhosh Kumar SS
Dr Pavitra Mohan, Public Health Physician, Udaipur
Dr Poornima Sheba Samuel Raj
Amulya Nidhi, Co-convenor, Swasthya Adhikar Manch
Sulakshana Nandi, Public Health Researcher, Chhattisgarh
Kaaren Mathias – Public Health Physician. Uttarakhand
Surbhi Shrivastava, Public Health Researcher
Inayat Singh Kakar, Public Health Professional
Professor Ritu Priya
Smita Todkar. Public Health Professional
Bency Vinitha Chhatria
Dr. Marcia Waran
Dr Sunita Abraham, Public Health Physician, Bangalore
Dr.Sebin George Abraham, Paediatric Resident, Vellore
Supriya Subramani, Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Zurich, IIT Madras Alumni
Shaleen Wadhawan, concerned citizen
Radha Holla Bhar, concerned citizen
Florence Joseph, Educationist
Amita Pitre, Development Professional
Nidhi Joseph, Mumbai
Dr. Sam David
Nachiket Udupa, concerned individual
Leena Menghaney, Lawyer working on health and access to medicines
Dr Sunil Kaul, Public Health professional
Sanjeevani Kulkarni, Prayas Health Group
Sanjana Santosh, Public Health Researcher
Prasanna Saligram, Public Health Researcher
Dr Deepak MG Public health specialist, Palakkad, Kerala
Dr. C. Sathyamala, Public Health Physician and Epidemiologist
Swathi SB, Primary care physician and researcher Bangalore
Rajeev B R, Community Dentist, Bangalore
Sarojini N, Public Health Researcher
Deepa V, Public Health Researcher, Activist
Dr. Anant Phadke
Runjun Dutta, Treatment Activist
Dr. Subodh S Gupta
Anika Juneja, Ranchi
Prof Lakshmi Lingam
Dr Girish Kumar, Past President, IMA Coimbatore branch 2009-10
Dr. Hemlata Pisal, Research Coordinator
Ravi Duggal, Independent Health Researcher, Mumbai