COVID-19: Harassed by cops, Kolkata doctor remembers Wuhan doctor

He was 'mentally tortured' for raising the issue of lack of safety gears for docs


The oncologist, who was detained and allegedly mentally tortured at a police station in Kolkata, compared his experience with that of the doctor in China who first raised concerns about COVID-19.

Indranil Khan was detained by Kolkata police on March 29 after he expressed concern over the lack of protection gears for doctors serving in West Bengal through his social media posts in which he also tagged Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

When Khan came out of his clinic, located on the southern fringes of the city, on the same day evening, a number of police vehicles were waiting for him outside.

Khan was asked to come to the police station where he was detained. He was asked to write an apology letter the way the doctor in Wuhan was asked. He was questioned for more than 16 hours. "Trust me when they asked me to tender apology, I remembered the doctor in China,” Khan told THE WEEK.

His mobile phone was taken away and he was accused of misleading people through his social media posts during the pandemic. The cops in the local police station were talking to superiors, which made Khan feel that "they were serving the orders from above".

Khan said he was merely stating the fact that the doctors in north Bengal, where he studied, can serve patients only if they have the right protective gears. "In fact, I told them that the state health department reacted to my posts and said they would look into the issue," said Khan.

He alleged that he was mentally harassed throughout the night. He pleaded with them to return his mobile saying he was an oncologist and his patients were all in emergency condition. "I told them that in this pandemic situation, cancer patients are connecting with me over phone as they could not come to hospital. In return, I was slapped with non-bailable sections of IPC," he said.

When he was refused to tender an apology, his mobile phone was taken away. On April 1, he moved the Calcutta High Court with a writ petition. The high court came down heavily on the Mamata Banerjee government and termed the police action a violation of freedom of speech and expression. The court asked police to return the belongings of doctor. The court also barred any coercive action against the doctor.

While the doctors in the state raised their voice in support of Khan, the Indian Medical Association, controlled by the ruling party in the state, remained a mute spectator.

West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh came defending Khan and called the harassment of oncologist as nothing short of "torture". "If doctors are harassed like this, you can imagine the situation of the common people. This government is trying to muzzle the voice of even doctors," Ghosh told THE WEEK.