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December 13, 2019

Ugly images


December 13, 2019

The lawyers’ attack on the Punjab Institute of Cardiology on Wednesday, during which they beat up doctors, staff and are said to have torn off the mask off of at least one patient under treatment amounts to a kind of horror that is almost unfathomable. Patients died, the PIC had to be sealed off – leaving extremely sick patients to find a way to get home or seek care elsewhere if they can afford to do so – and now consultants have begun a strike. This tussle between young doctors and lawyers had begun nearly a month ago. Since neither party is still at grade school, no one had imagined it would take such an ugly and inhumane turn. The mark of an adult citizen – or just human being, really – is the ability to display responsibility, restraint and concern for others, especially those who are critically ill.

Two separate FIRs under the Anti-Terrorism Act and for vandalism and other offences have been registered against around 250 lawyers. But we are still to hear seriously worded contemplation from bar associations or senior lawyers. Yes, there has been some criticism of the action. But what was needed – and never came – was unequivocal condemnation of the havoc caused by the lawyers, who were apparently angered by a trivial video mocking them and their profession. The lawyers say this was ‘provocation’.

We need to treat this incident as the heinous crime it was. The question for the future is not just the matter of what comes of the FIRs and the cases against the lawyers, but also who our young people are turning into. Some of the grinning faces, as they walked down the Mall towards the PIC, were disturbing. It is difficult to see what they thought was humorous about their plans. How did they determine that it is acceptable as part of a petty struggle to terrify people and send hundreds out of the hospital without any means to seek medical help? And the less said about the government, the better, which acted far too late. They saw the lawyers marching towards the hospital building. Perhaps the carnage we saw could have been prevented if they had been stopped before reaching the hospital and senior, saner members of their profession brought in to talk to them.

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