The death of Dr Preethi, a first-year junior postgraduate doctor at Kakatiya Medical College (KMC) in Telangana’s Warangal district, has led to an uproar.
As demands for justice for Preethi rise, the family of Dr SA Saif — Preethi’s senior, who is accused of driving her to suicide — told South First that they are living in fear.
The police insist that Saif allegedly drove Preethi to suicide, which caused her eventual death.
Saif’s family, for the first time, has come out to share how the incident has impacted them, and insist on his innocence.
Family speaks out
“Since the day Saif’s name surfaced in the case and his subsequent arrest, our family has not been able to cope with all the political and societal pressures there are to prosecute him,” Saif’s father Mohammed Salim told South First.
“I can feel the pain of Preethi’s family, but our Saif is innocent here. He didn’t do anything to her. And now, my family is suffering,” Saif’s mother Zakeera Begum told South First.
While the investigating officers insist that Saif’s messages on a WhatsApp group upset Preethi, his family is unconvinced.
Warangal Commissioner of Police (CP) AV Ranganath told reporters that the cause of Preethi’s suicide attempt was targeted harassment by Saif. “He was making remarks to insult her in a WhatsApp group,” he said.
Mohammed Salim, who is a technician with the Railways and stays in the Kazipet town near Warangal, disagreed.
“His message was only about ‘duty’. He asked a genuine question, where a patient’s life was involved. There was nothing else. He was not even near Preethi the day she attempted suicide,” he claimed.
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Fears of a media trial
The hundreds of news reports about Saif and social media messages targeting him are also a matter of concern for his family, who worry that these are leading to public and media trials.
“In media and on social media, hundreds of allegations are being levelled against him: That he insulted her. But in reality, apart from a few messages in the group, they never even spoke to each other. All these allegations against him are made up,” said Salim.
“We are not even able to eat out of fear. We are thinking about all the things that could happen to him and our family. We are not even able to commute in the locality we reside in out of fear that someone will attack us or insult us. My son is innocent,” Salim told South First.
He added that he hails from an economically disadvantaged background and has had to resort to odd and menial jobs to ensure a good education for his children.
“My life’s goal was to give good education to our children. I have three children and Saif became a doctor. It was a proud moment for our family. He would never think of harming anyone. He always believed in making everyone’s life better. That is why he chose the profession of a doctor,” Salim claimed.
Saif’s wailing mother told South First that her son was being “wrongly” made a culprit.
“If he has done anything wrong, he can be punished, but everyone in his college vouches for his innocence. The people who are making allegations against him can talk to Saif’s colleagues and college professors. They will tell them what a kind person he is,” Zakeera told South First.
Related: Suicide attempt by Telangana junior doctor turns communal
No politics involved?
The family is as scared and confused over political affiliations being attributed to them.
“I don’t even know the name of my corporator. How can people make such allegations? I have worked hard my whole life doing menial jobs to care for my family and educate my kids. I have not known any politician in my life,” said Salim.
Meanwhile, Ranganath stated that the medical college had a culture where junior students had to address their seniors as “sir”.
“This is between juniors and seniors at the hospital. Saif is in prison just because she called him ‘sir’? Even in our wildest dream did we not think that our son would be in jail when he committed no crime,” said Saif’s mother.
The family insisted that Saif was consumed by work and studies.
“If he used to go for duty at 8 am some day, he would return the next day at 4 pm. His life revolved around his studies and taking care of patients,” said Salim.
“His mother is suffering from diabetes and hypertension. She is skipping her food thinking about Saif. The last time we saw Saif was in court, and all of us cried. Saif cried as well,” recalled Salim.
After his arrest, Saif has been sent to judicial remand for 14 days.