Many doctors in Bengaluru have been on protest ever since a woman doctor at the Minto Eye Hospital was allegedly assaulted by members of a regional group on Friday. The alleged assault, triggered by treatment-related issues, was said to have become worse because the doctor did not speak Kannada.
Criticising what they termed as "slow police action" against members of the Kannada Rakshana Vedike, doctors from Victoria Hospital have also joined the protest now.
Deputy Chief Minister Ashwathnarayan CN appealed for calm from both sides on Tuesday, saying that the police were doing everything possible to alleviate the situation. "Forcing how something has to be done is not fair. They should have confidence. If nobody has confidence, how the system can run? It is high time that we take this to its logical end," he said, maintaining that "nobody is above the law".
Mr Ashwathnarayan maintained that the government was trying to address the concerns of patients who have lost their eyesight as well as doctors who face violence during the course of their work. "Our previous government had come up with a special law to prevent violence against medical staffers and the establishment in 2009. We fully understand what the doctors are facing. We are assigning Karnataka Industrial Security Forces to protect them and setting up a high-tech monitoring system to issue alerts whenever such incidents occur," he said, calling upon his "doctor brothers and sisters" to call off their strike.
Dr Vinay, one of the protesting medical professionals, told NDTV that the attack on the woman doctor was unwarranted. "On November 1, 20 to 30 members of the Karnataka Rakshana Vedike entered the out-patient department, where post-graduate students were treating patients beyond working hours on a holiday. They assaulted a lady doctor from Kerala, harassing her both mentally and physically. Although she knows Kannada and speaks to patients in the language, they tried to provoke her by saying that she doesn't know it. She was manhandled, and a male colleague who tried to help her was manhandled too," he said.
The doctor claimed that although a complaint was lodged, no action has been taken against the accused so far. "We want action against those people and we need proper security in the hospital, so that we can continue serving the poor," he said.
Another senior doctor, Ashok Kumar, demanded an apology from the Kannada Rakshana Vedike.
"An unruly mob comes along on the afternoon of a general holiday and pounces on a young lady who is doing her duty in all honesty and sincerity, asking her to speak in Kannada. What is your business, man? I will speak in Latin with my patient, if necessary," he said, adding that doctors have always made every effort to speak to patients in their own language to make them feel comfortable.
"They have no business preventing government servants from discharging their duty. This mob must come and apologise to our young lady doctor," Dr Kumar said.
Although doctors at the Minto, Victoria and Vani Vilas Hospitals are on strike, their emergency and outpatient departments are still functional.