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H. (identity hidden) is attacked by police officers on their way to work.
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NEW DELHI – When H. received an urgent message from the hospital on Monday evening asking her to come to work, she knew it would be bad. The world was affected by a pandemic and their homeland in southern India had discovered 22 positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. For weeks, the hospital in which she worked was all hands on deck – even doctors who did not treat coronavirus patients had to take throat and nose swabs, check the symptoms, and decide who needed medical attention. What she never imagined was that, on the way to work, the police stopped, abused, attacked, took her to a police station, and then she worked in a 12-hour shift with bruises all over her body would.
A few days ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked citizens to come out on their balconies and literally greet the courage and sacrifice of health professionals, but doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers are being attacked across the country. H. is one of many examples of medical professionals being attacked or driven out of their homes. As suspected carriers of the novel coronavirus, doctors are stigmatized or accused of violating a national ban. BuzzFeed News has seen a copy of H's complaint to the police about Monday night's events, but has agreed not to disclose her full name because of fears of retaliation by the officials involved.
H., Who is In her thirties she lives and works in the state of Telangana, where on March 23 the Prime Minister asked all citizens to stay in the house for 24 hours.
Healthcare professionals were exempted, but the state also entered into force a Colonial Period Act of 1897, known as the Epidemic Disease Act. The law, which was introduced by the British to combat bubonic plague in India, allows state governments to take exceptional measures to curb the spread of disease while protecting the authorities from legal action. Since the outbreak of the corona virus, the law has entered into force in several Indian states, although the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics has warned that it can be misused to trample on civil rights.
At 8:45 am On Monday, H. finally found a trip to work because there was no public transport on that day. She and another doctor went to the hospital on a scooter. Both women were thrilled and unsettled by the empty streets. Then the police stopped them.
"The officer on duty asked me why I was out during the curfew, so I showed him my ID and explained that I was a doctor on the way to work." H.. said. "He grabbed my ID, looked at it and said," But how do I know if you're a doctor or just meeting a man at this time? "
H. said she asked the officer to return her ID. At the same time, she took out her cell phone and tried to ask the hospital for help. At that point, she said the officer snatched up her cell phone hit her in the face and called her a "bloody bitch."
"I was so shocked when he hit me that I almost knocked him back as a defense reflex," she said He grabbed my hair and pulled me into the jeep. His colleagues beat me on the thighs and legs with their batons. They felt me around, including my private parts. "
H. and her colleague became then taken to a police station. Under Indian law, a woman can only be stopped and interrogated by the police when a policewoman is present, and a policewoman must be on duty at all police stations The station to which the doctors were brought was full of men.
“When we tried to sit down, the policeman who started the violence said, 'Why are these women sitting in chairs? Let her kneel on the floor, "said H .." I was afraid of what would happen. "
Noah Seelam / Getty Images
A traffic policeman holds a sign instructing commuters to stay at home in Hyderabad.
At that point, H. said, a senior police officer on the ward heard the women insist that they were doctors and stepped in to help. "He asked the officer who took us there to apologize and let us go," she said. "The officer looked at him and said," I'm sorry, sir. "He never looked at us, let alone apologized to us."
H. and her colleague asked the police to take her to her hospital, where they worked 12-hour shifts At the end of her shift, H. finally called her sister, who was also a doctor in the same hospital, and told her what had happened.
"I couldn't believe my ears, I couldn't believe that, just a few happened a hundred meters from my location, "her sister told BuzzFeed News." We are four siblings, all doctors. Our father is a police officer. We take duty very seriously. I was angry when she told me what happened to her . "
Together, the two women informed H.'s head of department about the attack and went back to the police station, where H. had been brought the night before to make an official complaint. H.'s sister asked d The police deliver the CCTV material from the intersection where the attack occurred. "I have absolutely no doubt that the footage will never be made available to us," she said.
On the way home, the women learned that the attack was filmed and published on social media by cross-posted on the Instagram and Facebook pages of groups of medical students and young doctors before they left Twitter went.
But the ordeal didn't end there. The next day, when the sisters went to work, they were received by a contingent of police officers and a senior member of the hospital administration. The men asked H. to withdraw their complaint and forgive the officer who had attacked them: “They told me: 'We are all fighting something much bigger together. Let's fight the corona virus, not each other, "she said.
H., Sister said, was outraged at the patronizing tone of the conversation.
" It wasn't a fight – he did attacked my sister, ”she said. "But people told us, 'You will spend years in court. Your life will be ruined. “The women agreed that the policeman had to apologize to the press. The official refused, but the complaint was still dropped.
"Finally, we got only one excuse, madam." My sister will have this trauma of being publicly beaten for the rest of her life. It sounds like a cliché, but the powerful can get away with anything. "
Manjunath Kiran / Getty Images
Paramedics, government officials, and police officers stand in front of a private hotel in Bengaluru City and are planning to safely evacuate and hospitalize a customer, who is believed to have tested positive for the corona virus.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases have remained surprisingly low in India, despite concerns that real rates are much higher since India also has some of the lowest test rates in the world. By Wednesday, India had registered just over 600 positive cases and 10 deaths. However, the country's government has taken aggressive measures to slow the spread of the virus. Last week, India stopped rail and air traffic nationwide just before large parts of the country were closed.
The story of H. is only one of a variety of horrors of Indian professionals at the front line of the coronavirus outbreak. Law enforcement officials and the public have been harassing airline cabin crew, grocery delivery staff and journalists in the past few days for allegedly breaking curfews and potential coronavirus carriers due to the public nature of their work. But healthcare workers were particularly worried because of their perceived proximity to people infected with the coronavirus.
Dozens of Indian doctors have complained on social media about discrimination against landlords who have asked them to vacate their homes. Some did so anonymously because they feared professional retaliation. "One owner said we were DIRTY," wrote a family doctor from Telangana, the state where H. lives, in a viral Facebook post.
Earlier this week, doctors across the country were looking for government intervention.
"We wanted the whole country to know that we were being harassed," said Adarsh Pratap Singh, president of the Resident Doctors Association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). On Tuesday, Singh and the AIIMS wrote a letter to Amit Shah, India's interior minister and Modi's right-hander.
Terrible. #AIIMS Resident Doctor & # 39; s Association writes to Home Secretary @AmitShah after harassment and violent eviction of health professionals and doctors from a temporary residence or rented homes. Many doctors are stranded on the streets. Hope such eviction is forbidden as soon as possible.
12:37 p.m. – March 24, 2020
"Many doctors are now stranded with their luggage on streets across the country," the letter said. "We condemn such an attitude and [request] an order [to stop this]."
In response, the Indian Ministry of Health issued an order that the government would punish homeowners who urged doctors and other health professionals to vacate their homes. "Such behavior means hindering officials [sic] from performing their duties," it said.
On Wednesday, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said he was "deeply concerned" to see what happened. "All hard steps will demoralize [doctors]."
I am very angry that reports from Delhi, Noida, Warangal, Chennai etc. are received, that DOCTORS & PARAMEDICIANS are outlawed in residential complexes and societies. Landlords threaten to drive them out because they fear infection with # COVID2019. Don't panic, please!
12:53 p.m. – March 24, 2020
But for some doctors, the government's action came too late. Salma Khan had just returned to New Delhi on March 16 after a two-week trip to Japan, where she visited her husband when she heard a commotion under her building. It was her neighbors who asked that she immediately leave the building and find another apartment.
Khan, who works as a pathologist at AIIMS, India's leading hospital and medical school, had already been examined for symptoms at Indira Gandhi International Airport when she landed, where it was used by the authorities for the trip home and the self quarantine was released. But her neighbors didn't care.
"They panicked and thought I might be a carrier," Khan told BuzzFeed News. "Everyone knew I was a doctor. I was wearing a mask and wanted to quarantine. I told them I would not get in touch with any of them. But I still couldn't convince anyone there. “
Khan called her landlord, who said he couldn't do anything about the situation.
Almost three hours later, Khan realized that the seething crowd would not give way. Ten people had gathered under the building, and more people jumped from their front door into the Fracas without actually coming out of their homes. Khan felt he had no choice but to book a flight to Kerala in southwest India to stay with her parents. "I was lucky that tickets were still available," she said. "I have no relatives to go to in Delhi."
Khan said the fear of the corona virus had spread to everyone.
"We are human beings," she said. "If someone is scared, they don't care if you're a doctor."
Based on the 10 minutes that Indians across the country were beating their pots and pans, ringing bells and applauding health professionals, Khan laughed on the balconies on Sunday and said, “It makes no difference. There has to be something practical. We all know that personal protective equipment is currently lacking. We should redirect everything to it. "●