As India counts dead, brutality of Hindu-Muslim riot emerges

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People mourn next to the body of Muddasir Khan, who was wounded on Tuesday in a clash between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law, after he succumbed to his injuries, in a riot affected area in New Delhi, India, February 27, 2020. (REUTERS)
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A Hindu religious flag flutters on the minaret of a burnt-out mosque following sectarian riots over India's new citizenship law, at Mustafabad area in New Delhi on February 28, 2020. (AFP)
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Security forces patrol in a riot affected area following clashes between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law in New Delhi, India, February 27, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Muslim residents carrying their belongings leave their neighbourhood following sectarian riots over India's new citizenship law, at Brijpuri area in New Delhi on February 28, 2020. (AFP)
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A man holds a tear gas canister found inside burn-out Farooqia mosque, attacked on February 24 and 25, following sectarian riots over India's new citizenship law, at Brijpuri area in New Delhi on February 28, 2020. (AFP)
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A woman mourns over the body of her son, Hashim Ali, who was wounded on Tuesday in a clash between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law, after he succumbed to his injuries, in a riot affected area in New Delhi, India, February 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
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People carry the body of Hashim Ali, who was wounded on Tuesday in a clash between people demonstrating for and against a new citizenship law, after he succumbed to his injuries, during his funeral procession in a riot affected area in New Delhi, India, February 29, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 01 March 2020

As India counts dead, brutality of Hindu-Muslim riot emerges

  • Questions have been raised about the role of the New Delhi police and whether they stood by while the violence raged or even aided the Hindu mobs
  • The violence appeared to be a culmination of growing tensions that followed the passage of a new citizenship law in December

NEW DELHI: The wounded came in waves. First in ones and twos, limping up the steps and staggering through the aluminum doors, and then in wheelbarrows, with bleeding skulls and stabbed necks. Finally, the motorcycles and auto-rickshaws arrived, their seats stained with the blood of as many as they could hold.

As the Mustafabad neighborhood of India’s capital was ravaged by communal riots for three days this week, the Al-Hind Hospital turned from a community clinic into a trauma ward.
Doctors like M.A. Anwar were for the first time dealing with injuries such as gunshot wounds, crushed skulls and torn genitals.
Almost a week after the clashes between Hindus and Muslims began, a clearer picture of the horrors inflicted during New Delhi’s worst communal riots in decades has begun to emerge.
On the eve of President Donald Trump’s first state visit to India last Sunday, Hindus and Muslims in the Indian capital charged at each other with homemade guns and crude weapons, leaving the streets where the rioting occurred resembling a war zone, with houses, shops, mosques, schools and vehicles up in flames. At least 42 people were killed and hundreds more wounded.
While both sides behaved brutally, most of the victims were Muslim.
The violence appeared to be a culmination of growing tensions that followed the passage of a new citizenship law in December.
The law fast-tracks naturalization for some religious minorities from neighboring countries but not Muslims. Opponents say it violates India’s secular constitution, and further marginalizes the 200 million Muslims in this Hindu-majority nation of 1.4 billion people.
The law spurred massive protests across India that left at least 23 dead.
But what unfolded in Mustafabad this week was far more brutal, with mobs hacking individuals with swords, burning people alive and bludgeoning people to death.
A Hindu intelligence bureau officer was repeatedly stabbed and his dead body thrown into a sewage drain that divides Hindu and Muslim residential areas. A Muslim man had his legs spread so far apart that the lower half of his body tore. His condition remained critical.
Questions have been raised about the role of the New Delhi police and whether they stood by while the violence raged or even aided the Hindu mobs. A New Delhi police spokesman, Anil Mittal, denied that police had aided rioters.
At Guru Teg Bahadur hospital along New Delhi’s eastern border, 18-year-old Salman Ansari waited for his father’s body to be handed over.
Ansari’s father had gone out to collect scrap for money as there was no food in the house. After seeing police assurances on the news, he thought it would be safe. It wasn’t.
Ansari said he was sleeping when two strangers dumped his father outside their home early Wednesday.
He carted his father 3 km on the family’s rickshaw to a private clinic. The doctors demanded 5,000 rupees ($69). His pockets were empty.
By the time Ansari managed to reach a public hospital, his father was dead.


Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

Updated 08 July 2020

Pregnant mom, unborn child die in India

  • Devastated family mourn latest victim of health system struggling to cope with outbreak

NEW DELHI: The death of an expectant mom and her unborn child after 13 hospitals in one day refused to treat her has put India’s strained health care system under the spotlight.

The devastated husband and 6-year-old child of eight-month pregnant Neelam Singh, 30, are still struggling to come to terms with the “unwarranted loss” a month after her agonizing death in an ambulance outside a hospital in New Delhi.

With more than 100,000 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the Indian capital, Singh became another victim of a health system battling to cope with patient demand due to a lack of bed space and infrastructure.

That, however, has been little comfort for her family members who said they would never be able to overcome the trauma.

“Those 12 hours were the most traumatic experience of our lives, and we have to live with that trauma,” Shailendra Kumar, Singh’s brother-in-law, told Arab News on Tuesday. Singh had developed complications with her pregnancy on June 5, and Kumar said she was rushed to the same hospital in Noida, Uttar Pradesh where she had been going for regular checkups, but was turned away.

“Shivalik (hospital) gave no reason for refusing to admit her. Despite our pleadings, the hospital did not budge from its stand,” Kumar added.

A day-long ordeal ensued, with one hospital after the other unable to treat her. Eventually, she died in an ambulance some 35 kilometers away from her home in Khoda.

“I took her to 13 hospitals, both government and private facilities, and every one refused to admit her. The image of her writhing in pain will always haunt me,” said Kumar, who was accompanied by Singh’s husband. He added that the reasons provided varied from “high costs” to a lack of facilities.

“One hospital told me that I could not pay the high cost so better try my luck somewhere else. At Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, I was asked to buy a coupon for COVID-19 treatment for 4,500 rupees ($60), which I did, but still, they refused her entry. It was not the loss of one life but two lives,” he said, referring to her unborn child.

He pointed out that the entire family was in a state of shock following her death with her husband “the worst impacted.”

Kumar filed a complaint against Shivalik and other hospitals but said so far “no action has been taken.”

A day after Singh’s death, the district magistrate of Gautam Buddh Nagar, which Noida falls under, ordered an inquiry and issued instructions for all hospitals “to admit patients regardless of the nature of the case.”

However, 20 days later, on June 26, a similar incident was reported in the Dadri area of Noida.

On that occasion, 21-year-old Robin Bhati had developed a fever, and relatives had taken him to a nearby hospital where a week earlier he had been admitted suffering from influenza. However, the hospital refused to admit him and referred him to a different facility.

Five hours and four hospitals later, a city hospital agreed to take him in, but by then Bhati was already seriously ill and hours later he died after suffering a heart attack.

“We don’t know whether he was a COVID-19 patient or not, but why should hospitals refuse to admit a patient in need of immediate attention,” his uncle Jasveer Bhati told Arab News. A number of the Noida hospitals which allegedly denied admission to Singh and Bhati refused to comment on the cases.

In a statement on Monday, the office of Noida’s chief medical officer said: “Strict instructions have been given to all the private and government hospitals to admit all patients showing COVID-19 symptoms.”

Dr. Loveleen Mangla, a pulmonologist working with Noida-based Metro Hospital and Heart Institute, said: “The government did not prepare itself to face this situation. Now the government is trying to create extra beds and medical facilities, but it’s late. They should have done this three months ago when the nationwide lockdown started.

“With the entire medical infrastructure overstretched and not many quality health workers available in the government hospitals, it’s a grim scenario now,” Mangla added.

With more than 723,000 COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, India is now the world’s third worst-affected country after the US and Brazil, with approaching 21,000 people losing their lives.

And the problem is not unique to northern India.

On Saturday, the southern Indian city of Bangalore reported the case of 50-year-old Vasantha, who was rejected by 13 hospitals before she was accepted by the K.C. General Hospital where she eventually died.

Lalitha, a relative of Vasantha, said: “Some hospitals said they didn’t have beds; some said they didn’t have COVID-19 testing facilities, and that way we lost critical hours. She died because of a problem with her respiratory system.”

Experts have questioned whether health care facilities in India are being overstretched purely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Anant Bhan, a Delhi-based independent researcher in global health, policy and bioethics, said: “Is there a real shortage of beds or is it the shortage caused by lack of efficient management? If the cases increase further, we might find it difficult to provide care.”