Jan. 19: Indian doctors of Apollo Hospitals Dhaka have received an email asking them to leave the country before January 31, prompting the Bangladesh government to assign a special force to protect the physicians.
Officials in Dhaka have termed the threat a hoax without explaining how they reached the conclusion.
The email, sent to nine Indian doctors as well as the hospital’s chief executive officer, has been attributed to a joint council of militant groups blamed for a string of bomb attacks across Bangladesh.
Sent by an Abu Sayeed M.M. Rehman, who introduces himself as the joint secretary of the joint action committee of three organisations ' Jamat-ul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul Jihad al Islami and the Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh ' the message also asks the recipients to “be ready to pay Bangladeshi taka 20 lakh (Rs 13.3 lakh)”.
Richard Larison, the Apollo Hospitals Dhaka chief executive officer, told The Telegraph: “I have been told by the Bangladeshi authorities that it’s a hoax. They also told me that they are working hard to trace the origin of the email.”
But he could not say how the officials established that the email was a hoax.
“We have received the email. But one surprising factor is at the end, the groups have written Joi Islam. Usually, they write Islam Zindabad,” another official said.
But few are willing to take a chance, given the current atmosphere in Bangladesh that has been scarred by a series of blasts, including 400 synchronised explosions on August 17.
Sources said some Indians have requested a posting back home. Sources in the Bangladesh government said the Rapid Action Battalion has been asked to provide security to the Indian doctors.
The email coincided with one of the biggest manhunts in Bangladesh for militant leaders who head two organisations mentioned in the message. Backed by helicopters, an 800-strong force is carrying out door-to-door raids in western Bangladesh for Bangla Bhai, the head of Jagrata, and Sheikh Abdur Rehman, an Afghan war veteran who leads the Mujahideen.
Apollo Hospitals Dhaka, a joint project of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise and Dhaka-based business group STS Holdings, has around 35 Indian doctors. The super speciality facility was inaugurated by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia last year.
The hospital is located at Basundhara, a residential area near the diplomats’ enclave in the Bangladeshi capital, and the 12-storeyed building has a rooftop helipad.
The email refers to the hospital’s operations, saying that “we strongly believe that you are ' here from India to exploit our poor people to extract money in the name of better health services, which could be done by our own expert doctors through our own hospitals. Now, we can’t allow you to continue further this exploitation on our land and also transfer our money to India.”