After two months of violence in Ahmedabad, even the city’s doctors seem divided. Such is the fear and insecurity that doctors often feel too frightened to go to areas dominated by other communities.
Patients queue up at the Al Amein hospital in the Muslim dominated area of Rakhiyal in Ahmedabad. They have a long wait ahead since the hospital has a severe shortage of doctors. Out of 100 doctors working here before the violence, nearly 75 were Hindus. Today only two of them remain and even they are too frightened to be filmed or named. This at a time when the number of daily patients has shot up from 250 to 700 due to the continuing violence.
The hospital head tells us that those who left still advise their patients over phone but don’t feel safe enough to return to this Muslim area.
“After god, it is doctors. If we create divisions between them also then it is the end of everything,” said Ishaq Sheikh, Vice President, Al Amein Hospital.
During the last two months, at least two doctors have been assaulted. Dr Amit Mehta is still recovering from his wounds. He was attacked while treating patients in his clinic in the Muslim dominated area of Juhapura. The local Muslim residents saved his life but he now says he will wind up his practice of 23 years.
“If this would have happened to you, would you have gone there? Question is of safety, that is the main thing. If one doesn’t feel secure, then why should one go there? I will take up a job somewhere else, we will earn somewhere else,” says Dr Mehta.
Following this attack on Dr Mehta, the Ahmedabad Doctors Forum, a right wing organization with about 100 active members in the city issued a warning to all Hindu doctors not to practice in Muslim-dominated areas and in minority-trust run hospitals.
But the official representative of the city’s doctors, the Ahmedabad Medical Association says such discrimination goes against basic medical ethics.
“Doctors treat each patient with the same responsibility. They do not see religion and they work in all areas. But they are also human and we hope the government will give them police protection in sensitive areas,” said Dr Bipin Patel, President of the Ahmedabad Medical Association.
Despite the fear and tension, some individual doctors continue to do their jobs at great personal risk, holding out a ray of hope for this shattered city.