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At Delhi hospital, an endless wait for bodies and one common complaint — no ambulances

The injured and their families talk of being stranded without assistance for hours and the bystanders who fell victim to the Delhi communal riots.

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New Delhi: It was an act of heroism that landed Aslam Khan, 32, in trouble. A painter by profession, Khan had returned home to Northeast Delhi’s Maujpur Tuesday evening, only to hear that his 12-year-old son Danish hadn’t come back.

Maujpur, along with Chand Bagh, Bhajanpura, Gokulpuri, Jaffrabad and Shiv Puri, was one of the epicentres of the violence and rioting that broke out in Delhi Sunday, and carried on for two days. The localities witnessed arson, looting of shops, stone-pelting and even bullets.

Fearing that Danish was in danger, Khan left home, and soon found himself in a stampede when the police used tear gas and people ran for cover. He picked up a “plastic bomb” to protect a child who had been separated from his mother, but the explosion burned the skin of Khan’s right hand and neck.

“His hand has been burnt away,” said Khan’s wife Jammu, worried how he’ll earn a living for the family now.

Aslam Khan and his family at GTB Hospital | Photo: Swagata Yadavar | ThePrint
Aslam Khan and his family at GTB Hospital | Photo: Swagata Yadavar | ThePrint

Khan was one of the patients ThePrint met at the trauma ward of the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, where most of those injured in the Delhi riots were taken. The hospital reported 200 injuries and 21 deaths until the afternoon of 26 February (Wednesday).

Amid heavy security and media presence, injured persons kept trickling in to the 1,500-bedded hospital and medical college. A number of them said a lack of ambulances and blocked roads meant that many could not reach the hospital in time.

Most of the injured said they were just going about their lives and running errands such as buying milk or dropping their children to tuition classes, and had no idea about the violence that had been unleashed on the streets in their familiar neighbourhoods.

Also read: Can’t allow another 1984: Delhi HC orders burials with ‘dignity’, shelters for riot victims

Bullets, stab wounds and fractures

“Of the patients treated, 30-35 per cent have gunshot wounds, while 55-60 per cent are blunt injuries,” said Dr Sunil Kumar, medical superintendent at GTB Hospital.

Graphic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint
Graphic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

Ten patients were in neurosurgery, 22 were in surgery, four or five in orthopaedics, and a similar number in the eye department. “We don’t want patients to shift from one hospital to another because the patients are already injured,” said Kumar.

Graphic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint
Graphic: Arindam Mukherjee | ThePrint

Shifa, a 16-year-old from Chand Bagh, sustained bullet injuries and is still fighting for her life in the ICU at GTB hospital. “She was on the roof with other children of the house when she was hit on the left shoulder by a bullet fired from a rifle,” alleged her uncle Yasin.

“Earlier, we thought she had been hit by a tear gas shell. The bullet injury was only confirmed when we went to the hospital six hours later,” Yasin said, adding that an ambulance was not allowed to enter despite multiple desperate attempts, and finally, a motorcycle was arranged to take her to hospital.

In another room of the trauma ward, 33-year-old Yatinder Singh from Gokulpuri lay worrying about his future. Singh’s left leg was in a cast, as he had been hit by a bullet on his knee. He had just dropped his kids for tuitions, and was returning home on his motorbike when he saw a mob running in the adjacent lane and found himself in the line of fire.

Singh then drove himself to GTB Hospital and called his brother-in-law to pick up his kids. “Both sides (Hindus and Muslims) are equally responsible for the violence; things have become really tense in the city,” he said.

The terror of violence unfolding around them in Shiv Vihar was such that Tofique and Deen Mohammed, uncle and nephew, thought it was better to jump from their homes than face the mob. Tofique jumped from the second floor and Deen Mohammed jumped from the fourth floor. Now both of them have to wear hip-to-toe casts.

Over the last three days, resident doctors have only got about four hours of sleep. “We did eight surgeries yesterday, many of them bullet injuries, but also stab injuries,” said a second-year surgery student who did not wish to be named, adding that most deaths occurred because of the loss of blood.

Also read: Delhi riots: Is CM Arvind Kejriwal actually powerless or using it as an excuse?

No ambulances for the injured

Not all those who were injured received help. On the streets of Noor-e-Ilahi area, residents claimed there had been four casualties, but all the injured had to wait for 3-4 hours before the ambulances reached their homes. Some said hospitals declined to provide ambulance services after hearing the pick-up location.

The body of Intelligence Bureau official Ankit Sharma arrives at GTB Hospital | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint
The body of Intelligence Bureau official Ankit Sharma arrives at GTB Hospital | Photo: Suraj Singh Bisht | ThePrint

Mohammad Faizi, 12, was shot on his upper thigh during the clash in this neighbourhood. His father Zakir said after hours of waiting for an ambulance, Faizi was finally admitted at GTB Hospital.

“But later, we were asked to leave the hospital with my wounded son. The doctors didn’t explain why. Faizi is now at home with the bullet in his body. He still awaits treatment,” Zakir said.

Incidents like these were the reason why the Delhi High Court, in a post-midnight hearing Wednesday, ordered the police to provide safe passage from the local Al Hind Hospital at Mustafabad to GTB Hospital.

At Kardampura, residents said after the death of a boy, ambulances did not turn up for over eight hours. The family had to place the dead body on the main road to get assistance from police personnel.

Mohammad Haseen, resident of Noor-e-Ilahi, died of a heart attack Monday night after waiting for medical assistance for several hours, according to his relative Sajid.

“The ambulance was stopped at the Bhajanpura red light by the police for four hours, after which it returned to the hospital. If it would’ve made it in time, Haseen might have been saved,” said Sajid, who claimed that he had tried to ferry him out on a motorbike, but was asked to turn around by policemen and a mob.

Sajid claimed Haseen had to be cremated the next day due to lack of transportation or any clear roads to take the body to the cemetery.

There were also complaints that patients sent away from GTB Hospital to Lok Narayan Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital did not get timely treatment. However, the medical superintendent at LNJP Hospital, Dr Kishor Singh, said it had only received two patients from GTB Hospital. “We have treated 38 patients who are riot victims since the last two days,” Singh said.

Also read: Delhi riots neither designed by Modi govt, nor Islamic conspiracy. It’s far more dangerous

Kin wait for bodies to be handed over

When ThePrint visited GTB Hospital, seven bodies of those who died in the violence were still in the mortuary. Four of the families were present, and said they had not been told the reason for the delay in handing over the bodies.

“This the third day that we are waiting for the body of my brother. Can you please get them to release it?” said Mohammed Rashid, brother of Shahid, who died due to a bullet injury on 24 February. The family has come from Uttar Pradesh, and said they had been asking the authorities but to no avail.

Shahid, an autorickshaw driver, had just come home and parked his vehicle when he was hit by a bullet. He had been living in New Delhi for the last 3-4 years, and got married four months ago.

GTB Hospital superintendent Kumar said: “There was a delay because the request to make a medical board to make the postmortem report has not come from the police department, and now that the request has come, postmortems are going on.”

At 2 pm, the hospital released the body of one Rahul Solanki, who died of a bullet in his neck. While the condition of his family was grim, his friends also broke down. One of them was 27-year-old Shahbaz, Solanki’s colleague, who said it was heartbreaking to lose his dear friend.

Shahbaz mourns his friend Rahul Solanki's death at GTB Hospital, while another friend consoles him | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Shahbaz mourns his friend Rahul Solanki’s death at GTB Hospital, while another friend consoles him | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

“What is the difference if the victim is Hindu or Muslim? When we bleed, it is the same,” a relative of the deceased said.

With inputs from Kairvy Grewal, Samyak Pandey and Soniya Agrawal.

Also read: The Delhi pogrom 2020 is Amit Shah’s answer to an election defeat


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