Srinagar: At a time when frontline health workers are feted with salutes, standing ovations, bouquets and musical tributes across the world, their counterparts in Kashmir are unfortunately made to face music on the way to their workplaces.
Dr Syed Maqbool, an ace senior intervention cardiologist at Srinagar’s Super Speciality Hospital, alleged "police beating, humiliating and detaining him for hours for asking a cop to allow him for work at a checkpoint in Srinagar'.
Hurt and disappointed with the rough treatment he met during his police detention, the doctor ''exacted his revenge'' by conducting three difficult surgeries. He did not allow the ''treatment'' hinder his work at the hospital by working through the night, including on the day of Eid.
"Though I was hurt by the police action, I got great satisfaction by helping the patients. This is my way to protest," he told News 18.
Doctors, paramedics and sanitation workers have gone beyond their duty to fight COVID-19, working frequently at odd hours and against the biological clock.
Because of the pandemic situation, the doctors have worked out a roster that calls for strict adherence to report at hospitals dot in time and follow a back breaking protocol. Jammu and Kashmir has seen 23 coronavirus deaths and close to 1,700 positive cases.
The 50 year-old award-winning and acclaimed doctor told News 18 that on Saturday he was driving in his personal vehicle when at Hawal-a checkpoint, barely a kilometre from his house in Srinagar's downtown, a cop asked him to halt and take a detour.
“I told him there is lot of traffic and I have to reach hospital in time and the backlane was already choked,'' he said.
He said he displayed his identity card, stethoscope and a call duty-rooster, but the policeman would not budge. ''I was wearing a PPE and it was quite obvious I was a doctor on duty.''
“It doesn’t matter if you are a doctor, what will you do?” the cop told Maqbool. Maqbool said he got out of his car and asked him to make him speak to a senior officer to which the cop got agitated and “ hit me in the belly with his baton.”
The ordeal did not the end there.
''The Station House Officer (SHO), Zadibal was apparently at the spot..He rushed at me and asked me to drive to the Zadibal police station. He and two constables sat in my car and I did what I was told.''
At 10:30 am, an hour after he was first stopped at the checkpoint, the doctor was lodged inside the police station. He said his phones were taken away by the SHO though ''I told him that the hospital needs to be informed so that they call a replacement.''
''Unfortunately, I was not allowed to make any call.''
''The SHO told me, ‘let your patients and the hospital go to hell, I don’t care. You doctors are thieves and indulge only in selling sub-standard medicines’,'' he added.
''This was a humiliating comment. I have seldom gone home all these weeks and this was a rude shock to me,'' he said.
He said his brother had heard about my detention from somewhere and later came to the police station and ''bailed me out from there but my personal car is still there.''
“I was allowed to go at 6 pm after spending close to eight hours at police station. And I was fasting.”
Maqbool said he reported the matter to Dr Samia Rashid, principal of Government Medical College, and she, in turn, referred it to Srinagar's district magistrate Shahid Chowdhary.
On Monday, Dr Rashid put out a tweet, calling the behaviour of police deplorable.
The behavior of the police has been deplorable to say the least - we as frontline workers have been working day in and day out risking our lives and families only to be harrassed. We as the administration have raised the issue with concerned authorities and hope for swift action.— Samia Rashid (@drsamiarashid) May 25, 2020
''If the police are behaving with the frontline workers this way, then god help this society.”
The healthcare workers at the hospital were even threatening a strike but she convinced them not to in the wake of pandemic striking the Valley.
Health workers have earned accolades world over for their services to fight the pandemic even as the casualties keep on surging. In India, more than 4,100 people have died and over 1,45,380 have got infected.
Given the selfless duty doctors have put in to stop the virus in its tracks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked people to acknowledge t
heir work and hold them in esteem.
Suhail Naik, president of the Kashmir's doctors group, said there are many health workers who were beaten up and humiliated during the period of the COVID-19 lockdown and even before that. His organisation even took up these issues with the government.
''We are compiling a list of harassment of health workers and will share those in detail,'' he said.
Cases of health and sanitation workers being rouged up allegedly by police at different places in Valley have been reported from time to time.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Srinagar, Haseeb Mughul, told a local news agency that a case has been registered.
''I have asked SP Hazratbal to look into the issue and submit a report,” the SSP was quoted as saying by the agency.
JK DGP Dilbagh Singh told wire agency KNS that police will investigate the case.
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''An incident of misbehaviour by SHO Zadibal with Dr Syed Maqbool of GMC Srinagar came to my notice today through social media . I forwarded it to SSP Srinagar for appropriate action. He has ordered an enquiry into the matter today itself," he said.
"No such behaviour as alleged is mandated or permitted. Let’s get the other side and the report into the incident. In the meantime my sympathies are with Dr Syed Maqbool and not with the Police officer who is reported to have caused alleged inconvenience and mental hurt to him.''