Police in Rajasthan have opened an inquiry after screenshots of a purported WhatsApp conversation in which staff at a private hospital in Churu district allegedly discussed not attending to Muslim patients, were shared widely on social media.
On Saturday, Dr Sunil Choudhary, who runs the Srichand Baradiya Rog Nidan Kendra, a private orthopaedic hospital in Sardarshahar, a town about 50 km west of Churu city, apologised on Facebook, saying his staff did not intend to hurt any religious group.
One of the participants in the purported chat was allegedly Dr Choudhary’s wife, who is a doctor herself, police said. Dr (Mrs) Choudhary denied this.
“Kal me me muslim ptnt ka x-ray ni krunga. Yah meri sapat hai (From tomorrow, I will not do X-rays of Muslim patients. This is my vow),” said one of the messages in the alleged chat among members of a WhatsApp group called “BARDIA RISE”.
Another message from the same individual said, “Muslim ptnt ko dekhna hi band krwa do (Stop attending to Muslim patients all together).”
Someone else in the group responded: “Agar Hindu positive hote n, Muslim dr hota to hinduo ko kbhi ni Dekhte. Me ni dekhungi Muslim opd. Bol dena madam h he ni yaha (Had Hindus been positive and the doctor was Muslim, he would never have attended to Hindus. I will not attend to Muslims in the Outpatient Department. Tell them Madam is not in).”
Police said an inquiry was opened following the receipt of a complaint, but no FIR had been registered yet.
“Two days ago, police control room received a complaint about screenshots being shared on social media of an alleged WhatsApp group chat between private hospital staff in Sardarshahar which are discriminatory in nature against a particular religion. The timing of the chat seems to be during the Covid lockdown,” Sub-Inspector Ramesh Pannu of Sardarshahar police station said.
“The complaint says the messages are communal in nature and discriminatory. We are conducting an inquiry, and so far no FIR has been registered. The statement of a leader of the local Muslim community has also been recorded,” he added.
Pannu said the authenticity of the screenshots, and the identities of those who had circulated them, were being investigated as well.
Maqbool Khan, district president of the Muslim Parishad Sansthan in Churu, said he had reported the matter to police.
S-I Pannu said a few of the purported messages on the group were alleged to have been written by Dr Bhagwati Choudhary, the wife of Dr Sunil Choudhary.
When contacted by The Indian Express, Dr Bhagwati Choudhary said, “It is not true that we refused treatment to Muslims.”
Asked if she had written the messages in the purported screenshots that were being attributed to her, Dr Bhagwati Choudhary said, “I don’t know… I have not done this.”
Dr Sunil Choudhary told The Indian Express that the screenshots were nearly two months old.
“I have apologised on social media. The chat is from mid-April when Covid cases related to the Tablighi Jamaat were coming. There were several cases in our area… As you can see, someone has written this and there is no doubt about it, but if you see the number of Muslim patients we attend to on a regular basis, you will see that the ground reality has no relation with what has been said in the chat.
“Even during that time of widespread fear, I was providing 24-hour healthcare facilities to everyone. We have never discriminated against anyone on the basis of their religion or caste. I have also spoken with the community members who made the complaint. The issue shouldn’t be politicised and doctors should not be punished without any reason.”
In his Facebook post, Dr Choudhary wrote in Hindi that neither he nor any member of his staff has any intention of hurting any religious community.
“Despite that, people felt bad, and for this, I and my entire hospital staff apologise. We assure you that in the future our hospital will not give you any reason to complain,” he wrote.
Recently, the principal of Kanpur’s Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial Medical College, Dr Arati Dave Lalchandani, was heard in a video saying members of the Tablighi Jamaat were “terrorists”, but were provided “VIP treatment”. The Uttar Pradesh government had subsequently transferred Dr Lalchandani out of her post.
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