Rajasthan Doctors Claimed to Refuse Muslim Patients Treatment: What Happens When a Pandemic is Communalised


Rajasthan Doctors Claimed to Refuse Muslim Patients Treatment: What Happens When a Pandemic is Communalised

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

As doctors across the world continue to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, a few healthcare professionals in Rajasthan have proven once again that religious discrimination has refused to take a backseat, even during a pandemic.

The police has filed an FIR against three employees of a private hospital in the state’s Churu district, including a doctor and a lab technician, for “planning to discriminate” against Covid-19 patients from the Muslim community in a WhatsApp group.

The messages, in which the employees discuss not attending to Muslim Covid-19 patients, were shared widely over the last few days on social media, drawing outrage.

“Kal se me muslim ptnt ka x-ray ni krunga. Yah meri sapat hai,” one individual says in the group chat, before adding, “Muslim ptnt ko dekhna hi band krwa do.” [I will not X-ray Muslim patients, I’ve promised myself. We should not attend to any Muslim patients.]

“Me ni dekhungi Muslim opd. Bol dena madam h he ni yaha [I won’t see any Muslim patients in the OPD; just tell them madam is not here],” another employee says, after making the baseless claim that a Muslim doctor wouldn’t have treated a Hindu patient either.

The doctor who runs the private hospital, Dr Sunil Chowdhary, later apologised in a Facebook post. In it, he doesn’t deny that his staff had written the statements in question, but argues that they hadn’t intended to hurt any religious groups.

His wife, who is also a doctor at the hospital, was a part of the group as well.

Chowdhary, however, went on to insist that his hospital hadn’t actually refused treatment to any Muslim patients, and claimed that the chats were from two months ago, when the Tablighi Jamaat meet was dominating headlines.

The Tablighi Jamaat conference, which was the first public gathering to be labelled a coronavirus hotspot in the country, had led to several inflammatory statements both online and offline.

One doctor in Uttar Pradesh was criticised earlier this week for calling the people who attended the meet “terrorists”, who should be “sent to jungles and be locked up in dungeons”. All through the previous two months, a number of morphed clips have stoked the fire, showing attendees apparently spitting on, and abusing hospital staff.

These incidents have proven once again that even healthcare professionals aren’t immune to the virus that is discriminatory behaviour. As the country moves towards its first phase of learning how to live with coronavirus, it’s clear that we will need many more calls for solidarity before the message actually seeps in.