| WHEELS OF WRATH: Two ambulance vans stand with smashed windscreens after a mob turned violent at Assembly of God Church Hospital on Sunday. Picture by Pabitra Das
Neither the time (11 am) nor the location (on Park Street, a five-minute walk from the local police station and the office of the deputy commissioner — south) could save a private healthcare centre from being vandalised for half an hour on Sunday.
After several government hospitals, it was the turn of Assembly of God Church Hospital to turn into the target of mob fury, with over 300 people going on the rampage, protesting the authorities’ refusal to hand over the body of a patient. Hospital officials maintained that Mansoor Ali, a Topsia-based leather trader, had been admitted with stab injuries and so only the police could hand over his body to the relatives. But Ali’s family and friends stormed the hospital with iron rods and lathis.
The emergency ward and offices on the ground floor were raided; glass panels and furniture at the reception, the cash office, the inquiry counter and the registration office were smashed. Outside, 15 vehicles, including two ambulances and some doctors’ cars, air-conditioning machines and a number of flowerpots were damaged.
According to the police, Ali and business partner Tasweer Ahmed Khan were stabbed on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road late on Friday by two unidentified youths. “Both were taken to Assembly of God Church Hospital, where Khan succumbed to his injuries on Saturday,” said Zulfiquar Hasan, deputy commissioner of police (central). Ali, who had undergone surgery soon after admission, succumbed to his injuries around 6.30 am on Sunday.
As news of Ali’s death spread, his neighbours started assembling at the hospital. “By 10.30 am, about 300 people had gathered,” said a hospital staff. “Trouble broke out after they were told the body could only be released under police supervision.”
Three people armed with iron rods first entered the emergency ward. “Even as we whisked two female patients into an adjacent room, the mob started smashing the glass and other equipment,” said a hospital staff. “A group of around 30 then rushed towards the rear, smashing the windscreens of vehicles parked on the premises. Some security guards were beaten up when they tried to resist the rampage.”
After a 30-minute assault, the mob dispersed and the attackers left the spot in a bus parked near the hospital gate. “Minutes later, the police arrived and we handed Ali’s body over to them,” the employee added.
The attack on Assembly of God Church comes in the wake of frequent mob flare-ups at SSKM Hospital, RG Kar Medical College and Hospital, National Medical College and Hospital and Calcutta Medical College and Hospital. And all this, while health-sector reform remains atop the priority list for the ‘do-it-now’ government.