The alleged suicide attempt by a first-year postgraduate junior doctor of the Kakatiya Medical College at the state-run Mahatma Gandhi Memorial (MGM) Hospital in the Warangal district of Telangana took a communal turn on Friday, 24 February.
Telangana BJP president Bandi Sanjay Kumar claimed that the attempted suicide incident in Warangal was clearly a case of “Love Jihad”. He told reporters in Karimnagar that Hindu girls were being trapped, even as doctors rubbished the idea and police pointed towards “ragging”.
“This is a Love Jihad case. They are trapping Hindu girls and money is being transferred from foreign countries. They are targeting women and harassing them in the name of love. In order to dilute the case, they are charging the culprit with ineffective allegations” he claimed.
Bandi Sanjay also said that a conspiracy was in play to turn this into a trivial case where “they” (the administration) are sympathising with the perpetrators of the harassment instead of the girl’s family. He demanded an inquiry into the case by a sitting judge.
Meanwhile, right-wing elements amplified the allegations on social media.
Doctors’ associations call for restraint
However, speaking to South First, representatives of different doctors’ associations refuted the Love Jihad angle.
“We know that the state is going to witness an election in December, and everyone is looking to score brownie points. But this is not a case of Love Jihad in any form. When someone is in a serious condition in hospital fighting for life, these kinds of words by politicians are unsuitable,” a member of a doctors’ association told South First on condition of anonymity.
He further said that it would be better to wait for the toxicology report and what the police investigation was going to find.
“The [suicide attempt] victim is being treated at NIMS (Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences) and she is on ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, the process of oxygenating blood outside the body), but the hospital has become a political pilgrimage for many. It should have not happened. When she is on ECMO, why are politicians visiting her? Just for the sake of a photograph!” he said.
Similarly, Healthcare Reforms Doctors Association president Dr K Mahesh Kumar said that no one should jump to conclusions.
“It’s not the issue of representation of religion or demography. No one knows exactly what happened to the victim. It’s a medico-legal case and the police are working on it. They have to find the reasons behind it,” he said.
“Right now, no one is able to determine exactly what the truth is. There are multiple narratives out there, and also some conspiracy theories. So, at this moment, we are also trying to gather the truth rather than jumping to conclusions, and that’s why we are not releasing any statement,” Telangana Junior Doctors Association (TJUDA) spokesperson Dr C Karishni told South First.
The student had attempted suicide on Wednesday allegedly after being harassed by one of her seniors, a male doctor at the Kakatiya Medical College in Warangal.
She was found unconscious by the staff and doctors and given initial treatment there, they said.
Meanwhile, a group of medical students said they wanted a fair investigation to be conducted and the truth to come out. No sections of law should be slapped on the accused without reason, they said.
They also wished for a speedy recovery of the medical student.
Also read: Why are junior doctors stressed and dying by suicide?
Kakatiya student was driven to suicide, say Telangana police
Warangal Commissioner of Police (CP) AV Ranganath told reporters that there was apparently targeted harassment of the survivor by her senior, Dr SA Saif, which could have driven her to try to take the extreme step.
Hours after arresting Saif, he said that the doctor was booked for the girl’s attempted suicide.
The police also invoked provisions of the Scheduled Castes Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and the Anti-Ragging Act against Saif.
The CP defended the police action, saying ragging could also be considered insulting behaviour.
“It is clear that there was targeted harassment of this girl by Saif. He was making remarks to insult her in a WhatsApp group,” he said.
The police have retrieved the data from the WhatsApp groups of first and second-year MD students of anaesthesia.
After Saif made a remark in the group about a case sheet on 18 February, the survivor sent him a personal message objecting to the remarks about her.
The girl told other students that Saif had made the remark: “You don’t have brains.”
Stating that the medical college had a culture where junior students had to address their seniors as “sir”, the police official said Saif probably did not like the girl questioning him.
Also read: PG doctors from South India detail humiliation, harassment
College looked into earlier complaint
The police also said that on 20 February, the girl complained to her father about the harassment. He took up the issue with the police and subsequently the head of the department (HoD) spoke to Saif and the girl separately on 21 February. Saif denied harassing the girl, but she said that she was being harassed.
The girl was on duty at MGM Hospital on the night of 21 February. The next morning, she was found unconscious by the hospital staff. She was admitted to the same hospital, but was shifted to the NIMS in Hyderabad after her condition deteriorated.
Doctors and HoDs told police that this could be due to cardiac arrest. They also informed the police that she had some health issues like thyroid.
“We have not reached any conclusion, but going by the chats and what had happened, we are of the opinion that it could have been a probable attempt to suicide,” said the commissioner.
Dismissing buzz on social media that politics is involved in the issue, he said the accused does not belong to any influential family.
Political visits to the hospital
Meanwhile, Telangana Woman and Child Welfare Minister Satyavati Rathod visited the hospital and enquired about the girl’s condition. The government would not spare anyone found guilty in the incident, she said.
State Panchayat Raj Minister Errabelli Dayakar Rao also visited her, reasoning that she hailed from his Palakurti constituency.
“Her family belongs to my Palakurti constituency. I have been associated with that family for a long time. A traditional family. She is a girl like fire,” he told reporters.
He also said that Opposition parties were politicising this sensitive issue as they were looking to gain from it. “We condemn such comments. In such cases, we should stand by the victim’s family,” said the BRS leader.
It should be mentioned that Telangana Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan on Thursday visited NIMS to enquire about the condition of the student, who was being given advanced treatment following multi-organ failure after the suicide attempt.
Health Minister T Harish Rao said the state government would conduct a thorough inquiry into the incident and take steps against those responsible for her alleged suicide bid.