By Jose Kavi
New Delhi: The Conference of Religious India has condemned a recent mob violence on a Catholic hospital in western India.
“We strongly condemn the unwarranted attack and senseless violence perpetrated by a mob of more than 300 persons … on the personnel and patients of Holy Cross Hospital, as well as on a journalist and police officials,” said a statement from the western Indian regional unit of the conference. “We denounce the destruction of the hospital premises, medical equipment and property as an unprovoked criminal act,” added the November 29 statement.
The incident occurred on November 27 when Rohit Bhoir, a 22-year-old patient, died during treatment in the hospital managed by the Holy Cross nuns at Murbad, Kalyan, in the Thane district of Maharashtra.
The rioting crowd, mostly relatives of Bhoir, destroyed furniture and medical equipment at the three-story hospital. Seven people, including five hospital employees, a policeman and a journalist, were injured.
The vandals held patients and staff hostage for more than three hours until the arrival of police reinforcements. Many patients fled in fear while some took discharge as soon as the violence ended.
Bhoir’s last rites were conducted at Varap village, near Kalyan, after his post-mortem examination at J J Hospital in Mumbai. The preliminary report states heart attack as the cause of death.
On November 28, the Thane police arrested five persons in connection with the violence. The arrested persons include relatives of Bhoir.
Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) member Dr Mangesh Pate has said that doctors in Kalyan- Dombivli will go on strike from December 5 unless more arrests are made by then.
IMA Mumbai’s secretary Dr Parthiv Sanghvi said, “Doctors across Maharashtra are extremely pained by the horrific and dastardly act of violence and vandalism which took place at Holy Cross Hospital. There is a feeling of insecurity among doctors.”
On November 28, police registered two cases against 105 persons for the attack. The first was against 80 persons for assault on healthcare personnel and the second against 25 persons for attacking a local journalist, Ketan Betawdkar, who was covering the 500-strong mob’s vandalism, reported The Times of India.
The WRCRI Western Region Conference of Religious India) has expressed solidarity with the nuns, doctors, employees and patients of Holy Cross Hospital.
It also launched an online signature campaign asking for prompt and adequate action from government and civic authorities. The campaign gathered more than 1,200 signatures within a day.
The religious also condoled the “untimely death” of Bhoir. “We offer heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family members,” its message said.
The association of priests and nuns working in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Goa urged the government authorities to conduct “a thorough investigation into this attack, arrest the perpetrators and conduct a fast-track trial to mete out exemplary punishment that should serve as a deterrent to groups or individuals who resort to mindless violence.”
They also demanded compensation for material, physical, mental and emotional damages to the hospital and its personnel at the earliest to help Holy Cross Hospital resume its “selfless service in favour of the ordinary citizens of our nation.”
The group also wants legislators to enact policies to curb “mindless violence against institutions and persons” serving the poor in the country.
It regretted that increasing attacks by anti-social elements on public service providers and institutions. “It is observed that government and law enforcement officials are reluctant and slow to apply existing legal provisions against the perpetrators of such crimes. Over time, the charges are watered down and many attackers ultimately get away scot-free,” the group added.