Two days after a cancer hospital in Meerut put out an advertisement stating that Muslim patients would only be admitted if they, and their attendants, showed negative test results for COVID-19, an FIR has been filed against the hospital owner.
“The police learnt that a hospital in the area, through advertisements, was making objectionable comments about a minority community which could lead to unrest. The owner/proprietor has been booked and the matter is being investigated,” said Ajay Sahni, SSP, Meerut.
Dr Amit Jain, owner of Valentis Cancer Hospital, maintained that the advertisement was not communal and alleged a “conspiracy” instead. He claimed that a “wrong message” was sent due to “typing errors or misprints”, and his objective was to “promote testing”.
On Friday, in an advertisement in a Hindi daily, the hospital said: “Several Muslim patients are not following the guidelines (like using a mask etc) and they are also misbehaving with hospital staff. For hospital staff and patients’ security, the hospital administration requests all new Muslim patients that they, and one designated caregiver, get tested for coronavirus and visit the hospital only if their reports are negative.”
It added that the “rules do not apply to Muslim doctors, paramedical staff, Judges, police officers, Shias and Muslims who are not living in densely populated areas.”
Blaming the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi last month for the increase in COVID-19 cases, it said: “Members linked to Tablighi Jamaat have displayed rude behaviour by spitting on nurses and doctors, and are not following rules and regulations. The cases in their own houses and areas around them are spreading rapidly. Doctors and officials who are visiting them to gain information are being attacked with stones, which has created an atmosphere of fear.”
The hospital also appealed to “the well-off Hindu/ Jain families, who are mostly misers”, to contribute to the PM Cares fund.
The next day, the hospital issued a clarification in the same Hindi daily. “We have come to know that some people connected to the Hindu and Jain communities have been hurt by the information and request published by Valentis Hospital. It is known to everyone that the Hindu and Jain communities have always been the frontrunners in social work and charity. A wrong message was published by mistake. We deny that, and regret and apologise for the same,” it said.
“Our intention was to request all the communities (Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Christian) to come together in this fight. We never intended to hurt anyone’s feeling. If we have hurt anyone’s feelings, we are sorry for the same,” it said.
However, there was no mention of its decision to not let in Muslims without a COVID-negative report.
On Sunday, Dr Jain was booked under IPC Sections 188 (disobeying order), 295 A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) at the Inchauli police station.
Brijesh Kumar Singh, SHO, Inchauli police station, said the FIR was registered on the complaint of a Sub-Inspector level officer.
When contacted, Dr Jain told The Indian Express: “The hospital does not discriminate against a particular community. 70 per cent of our patients are Muslims. Due to typing errors or misprints, it appears that a wrong message was sent, for which we issued an apology. Our aim is to promote testing, since some people of a community are spreading misinformation, deterring others from cooperating or getting tested. We want the best interests of society,” he said.
He said he wanted to file a counter FIR against those who misinterpreted the advertisement. “Some people on social media have made it a point of conspiracy. And it is furthering a communal agenda. Under relevant sections of IT Act, we will file an FIR against such people,” he said.
In a statement, he said the advertisement was an appeal to all citizens to unite in the fight against COVID-19. “The way our corona commandos are mistreated and not allowed to enter colonies. we issued a strong message against such behaviour. Basically, our request was for all government guidelines to be followed so that people of all religions are safe,” he said.
Set up in 2000, the hospital is a 150-bed cancer treatment facility.