The legitimacy provided to the current protest of doctors across India and the buzz around ‘democratic rights’ and ‘right to protest’ is appreciable but surprising at the same time. It is appreciable as such terms are finally popping up among students of natural science and on the parallel, among a lot of supporters of the BJP.
However, the surprise comes as to how a nation where common citizens often dismiss strikes by trade unions and farmers’ organizations by terming them a wastage of time and a great loss for the economy, is talking about the ‘right to protest.’ We must understand as to how it is necessary to support the genuine cause of the doctors’ but simultaneously acknowledge how our exclusive legitimacy only to the doctors’ movement has proved that most of us are highly casteist, misogynist and above all, orthodox in our thoughts.
Several social media posts were put up by medicos where they complained that doctors were chased and beaten in their own campus by outsiders who are primarily TMC workers. The doctors find it to be a politically motivated act of violence. I completely believe them and condemn it like the millions of common citizens of the country have done. However, similar attacks frequently take place inside Delhi University or JNU where students are beaten black and blue for raising issues of scholarship or security.
The ABVP, undoubtedly an organization supported by the BJP had thrown bricks and stones on professors and students at Ramjas College where a conference was underway. In times like those, no social media outrage was ever seen by the same citizens who are unconditionally extending their support to the doctors’ movement. Extending solidarity to a set of students and professionals and staying ignorant about the other set tells us how much hatred is perpetuated inside us for the whole idea of social sciences. The slut shaming of women students from BHU and the Pinjra Tod movements in Delhi by the same common citizens of the country also make us highly misogynist.
It is also significant to look into the double standards of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) which has given a call for a nationwide protest against the assault on the doctors. It is a welcome step when an association, often termed as autocratic, comes forward to support the doctors who are at the receiving end of violence.
However, in 2017, when several kids died in the government hospital in Gorakhpur of Uttar Pradesh and the blame wa put on a doctor named Kafil Khan, the IMA stood silent. The same doctor was tortured in several ways by the state government of Uttar Pradesh. Considering the IMA’s loyalty towards the BJP-led central government, their ignorance can be understood but the absence of any solidarity from any doctors’ group from across the country tells us the exclusive nature of strikes the doctors carry out.
In a recent incident, when a young lady named Payal Tadvi resorted to suicide when she could no longer take casteist slurs made by her upper-caste colleagues, no doctors were seen on the streets. The social media walls of a few of my medico friends and family members mentioned nothing about this tragic death, which are now filled with black flags in support of the current protests.
There is no way the death of Payal Tadvi should not concern the medical fraternity of the country as thousands of students and professionals from the SC and ST communities have a share in the profession. Does this tell us that the lives of students from marginalized communities bear less importance for the doctors protesting today?
The doctors’ movement, through several methods, is asking for solidarity from the masses. Banners and placards saying, “save the saviours” can be seen. Twitter and Facebook are filled with aggressive hashtags. However, what is pathetic is that the protest says nothing about the sad deaths of hundreds of children in Muzaffarpur in the past couple of days. It does not question the government as to why any human being should die due to the lack of medical infrastructure in government hospitals. The reality is that the protest limits itself only to the security of doctors and not everyone who is affected by the crumbling health sector of the country.
Having said that, there is no question of not extending our support and solidarity to the doctors’ movement today. However, we must admit that our support to only a set of protests by a certain set of individuals is problematic and comes from how deeply patriarchal and anti-intellectual our thoughts actually are.