Two days since facing the most harrowing time in her career till date as a homeopathic practitioner, Zakia Syed is still to come to terms with the attack on a COVID-19 monitoring team, which she was part of, at Tatpatti Bakhal locality of Indore on Wednesday. Especially since this came at the same locality they had visited over the previous few days and quarantined nearly 70 people — all without any trouble.
Sporting personal protection equipment (PPE), Syed, 34, said her team was taking notes and asking about symptoms, previous illnesses and travel history of people when they suddenly heard shouts of “maaro maaro (hit them)’’. Soon, a mob hurled abuses and chased them with stones, pipes and cans.
Syed said she had handled angry relatives and patients at public health centres in the past but had never imagined that one day she would be chased by a mob of more than 150 people, “throwing anything and everything they could lay their hands on”.
“I was really scared. My mind stopped working. I don’t recall how many minutes the ordeal lasted,’’ Tripti Katdare, who was with Syed, said. “It’s difficult to walk with the PPE suit – I could not run; I fell down. Luckily, it was not far, else it would have been difficult to come out…’’
Syed said the residents were simply “not ready” to listen. “I even told them that I was a Muslim doctor, and that they must listen to me, but they were in no mood to relent. I realise a mob has no religion; you can’t reason with it.”
Katdare said they managed to somehow get into a car brought closer to the area of ruckus by tehsildar Charanjit Hudda.
Syed said the team’s routine was to paste “DO NOT VISIT” posters on the quarantined homes. “They had cooperated with us on the previous days. My husband and two children (aged five and nine) were very scared…”
Asked what prompted the team to return to the same locality on Thursday evening, this time with senior administrative and police officials, Syed said, “Hum frontline workers hai. Hum hi darr jayenge to kaam kaun karega (If we, the frontline workers, get scared, who will work)?”
On Thursday, she said, the locals apologised, although it came after the administration arrested seven attackers and booked four of them under the stringent NSA. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the collector had warned of strict action. Besides, Indore’s shahar qazi (city cleric) was with the team and told residents that they had brought a bad name not just to the community but also to Indore.
Hudda said he got some clarity on the reason behind the attack on Thursday when he met Mubarak, a resident they were looking for – misinformation. “I was scared because I was told if I go with the team I will be injected with the virus and I will test positive,’’ Hudda recalled Mubarak telling him.
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