Did the state's Health Department perpetuate the current unrest in Kashmir? Yes it did. That is, if we go by the Police intelligence report. How? By parading the injured before media "under a pre-planned strategy to showcase the failure of the state".
As massive protests, which broke out in the valley after the killing of Hizbul Mujahedeen commander, Burhan Muzaffer Wani, leading to killing of over 90 civilian protesters and injuries of over 10,000, the police intelligence report says that health department played a role in stoking the crisis.
“This is substantiated by the fact that a major chunk of injured were referred to Srinagar hospitals from peripheries, where they were showed to media apparently under a pre-planned strategy to showcase the failure of the state,” reads a Special Branch Kashmir report, which the health department officials describe as a figment of imagination and without a basis.
The district hospitals received a large number of the injured patients following the eruption of a spontaneous uprising in July. However, the critically wounded were referred to Srinagar. Most of the injured were taken to Srinagar hospitals by the ambulance services provided by the district hospitals as it was impossible for private vehicles to ply on the roads with both security forces and protesters blocking the movement.
However, the SBK report has said the way the injured were shifted to Srinagar hospitals aroused public passion and aggravated the law and order situation further.
The report says that the injured were ferried to Srinagar in ambulances which were accompanied by the mobs, who would shout slogans during the transportation of the injured.
The report has mentioned presence of NGO in the Srinagar hospital and accused them of prolonging the unrest as they would shout slogans on seeing the injured patients and would even remain present in operation theatres during the surgeries. The report refers them as “borrower of another’s corpse to resurrect a soul.” The report has also indicted the doctors and said it was amazing that during these crises no report of negligence or protest over negligence of doctors have taken place.
Over 1300 children below the age of 15 were among over 10,000 people injured in the action of the government forces to quell protests triggered by Wani’s killing.
Previous data released by the department said that till November 2, the number of wounded admitted was 9,010. Among them, 6,205 suffered pellet injuries, 365 had bullet injuries and 2,436 were listed under “other injuries”.
The data excludes those who suffered pellet injuries in their eyes, but a senior doctor in the SMHS hospital said more than 14000 such patients have been admitted in three hospitals. He said all those having pellet wounds in their eyes were visually impaired.
Incidentally on July 19, Jammu and Kashmir Police fired tear gas shells inside the main hospital of Kashmir, SMHS hospital, creating panic and suffocating patients.
The Doctors Association Kashmir had said it was a senseless act of unspeakable brutality. “This is a wanton disregard to international humanitarian law under which medical facilities and personnel must be protected. It is sickening that doctors and hospitals are attacked by those who are meant to protect them. Hospital staff was beaten and ambulances were damaged by forces while they were ferrying critically injured patients and this act of madness is highly condemnable,” the DAK had said.
The SBK report is contrary to the government stand on the health department’s role. Only on July 19, the Minister for Health Bali Bhagat had lauded the role of the department, particularly the doctors, paramedics and drivers during the then prevailing situation in the Valley. The Minister had said that Government acknowledges the commendable work done by each employee of the department, who provided necessary medicare and help to the patients and saved many previous lives.
She had said that the employees of the Health & Medical Education department have proved their sincerity and dedication and maintained the dignity of the noble profession in most difficult moments.
She had even said Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti herself has acknowledged and appreciated the good work of the department, and it is hoped that the same momentum will be maintained in future too.
“The entire department worked as one unit in most coordinated way in most difficult situation, which needs to be appreciated”, the Minister had said. She had hoped that the Government expects that they (doctors, para-medics and drivers) will continue to exhibit the same vigour and spirit in providing timely medicare to all those undergoing treatments in various hospitals.
Later on July 30, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti chaired a meeting with the team of experts in ophthalmic and retinal surgery from Mumbai, headed by Dr S Natarajan, Padamshree awardee, and renowned ophthalmic surgeon from Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, Mumbai.
The Chief Minister had appreciated the “efforts made by the doctors” as well as conveyed gratitude to Dr Natarajan and his team for their work, and Borderless World Foundation (BWF) for their coordinating role in the process. She observed that the State Government is committed to provide all assistance to the patients and that whatever expert treatment is required shall be made available to them, including the need to take a patient outside the State for further treatment if so required.
The Chief Minister had desired that the eye care facility at SMHS should be developed as a Centre of Excellence in Ophthalmology care by making further additions to the existing facilities.