When Mumbai shut down Wednesday, an anxious Asher family called the police control room around 10 am. Their daughter-in-law Ankita Asher had started experiencing labour pains. No one answered the helpline but father-in-law Nilesh Asher thought nobody would stop a pregnant woman. From Ghatkopar till Powai’s Hiranandani Hospital, 10 km away, the family completed a journey that normally takes 22 minutes in about four hours. It took another six hours before she could deliver her baby.
The day left the family bitter ahead of the 28-year-old’s childbirth. Stone pelters smashed windows of their car, a hospital refused treatment when a gynaecologist could not reach due to roadblocks, and protests in various areas left them scrambling amid detours and ambulances.
“We left from Ghatkopar in the morning thinking there was no tension. Since our consulting doctor was in Hiranandani hospital, we thought it was best to take her there,” said Asher, who runs a shop selling pooja material.
The family reached LBS Road where a police barricade stopped them from entering Jogeshwari-Vikhroli link road (JVLR). “A mob of 500-1000 angry protesters was there. We decided to take the next turn. But we found protesters there too,” recalled Asher. In Vikhroli, their car was attacked by an angry mob. Husband Timir said he still remembered their faces: “Young boys aged 12 to 16”, who broke the car’s windowpanes. The family decided to hide near a building on Station Road, Vikhroli West. “A woman let us wait at her house. But my daughter-in-law was in terrible pain. We decided to visit the nearest hospital,” says Asher.
Accompanied by locals, they went to Sai Samruddhi Hospital where an on-duty nurse could only check Ankita’s blood pressure, which was higher than normal. The gynaecologist was unable to reach the hospital.
A local, Guddu Singh, his brother and a policeman volunteered to accompany them till Hiranandani Hospital. After several calls, a private ambulance agreed to pick them up. Singh, who drove his Innova to follow the ambulance, was however stopped by a mob near Malvan Samudra Hotel, a few minutes away. “We told them that we had a pregnant woman along with us. I remember they said, “So what, let her die,” says Singh. Singh alleges that while police were at the spot, they were outnumbered by the mob.
“My car was attacked. They broke windowpanes and hit me with a rod,” he says. Singh was rushed to a nearby clinic where he received 15 stitches.
By 1.30 pm, Ankita was rushed to Hiranandani Hospital. “My daughter-in-law was in shock. How can anyone be so inhuman?” Asher asks.
Doctors at Hiranandani Hospital said Ankita was due to arrive for her delivery on Tuesday but could not move out of her house due to protests. Dr Vanita Raut, her consulting gynaecologist, conducted a Caesarean-section surgery to deliver the child Wednesday. “She suffered medical indications that required a c-section,” said a spokesperson.
Ankita’s family said the baby boy was stuck in the uterus, delaying the delivery. By 7.30 pm Wednesday, the delivery was finally conducted.
“Even we felt bad about what happened in Pune. But what transpired in Mumbai was wrong. Common men cannot be made to suffer in emergency situation. I kept asking everyone to cooperate, from police to the mob. No one helped me,” says Timir (29).
“The young boys who attacked my car did not know what they were doing. Where are the youth headed?” Timir said, adding that he was still not sure how to react to his newborn son’s arrival in “a city filled with hatred”.