True to his Hippocratic oath

Dr. Nishadbhai Bhatt, Physician, Memdavad, Khed

Doctor Naishadbhai Bhatt is the medical officer at the Municipal Hospital in Memdavad town. Uniquely placed to help those most affected during the riots in March 2002, he used his position to provide aid to members of both communities in a number of creative ways.

During the riots, Dr. Bhatt worked day and night to provide relief and help to those who needed him, irrespective of their religion. He had two hospital ambulances at his disposal. Knowing that ordinary people trust ambulances and hence ambulances could reach places that ordinary vehicles cannot, he used these vehicles to rescue many trapped Muslims in the area. One such incident occurred in a village near Chhapra where some Muslims were holed up in the sarpanch’s house. When Dr. Bhatt found out about the Muslims trapped there, he sent the ambulances to rescue them and bring them to the Memdavad relief camp.

Dr. Bhatt also found other innovative uses for his ambulances. Apart from responding to medical emergencies in different parts of the town, whether Hindu or Muslim predominant, he used the ambulances as hearses to transport the dead and their relatives to crematoriums or graveyards so that funerals could take place with dignity. Due to the prevailing tension in the city, parents were reluctant to send their children, particularly girls, out to the local Commerce College where examinations were being held. Dr. Bhatt pressed his vehicles into service. Hindu and Muslim students travelled together in the safety of the ambulances and were able to appear for their examinations.

There were instances where some people had to travel to Ahmedabad to catch their flights to go abroad or people from abroad were due to arrive but the prevailing tension and curfew made things difficult for them. Dr. Bhatt again came to their rescue and used his ambulances to facilitate their transport.

Both the ambulance drivers were Muslims. Dr. Bhatt took the precaution of sending a Hindu employee from the hospital along with each driver so that the safety of the drivers was ensured. He himself travelled to distant villages like Ghodasar, where 14 persons had been brutally butchered, maimed and then killed, to conduct post-mortems on the bodies recovered there and give correct reports. Elsewhere, he also personally intervened with senior police officials to secure the release of several young men, Hindus and Muslims, who were picked up by the police in raids but who, he was convinced, were innocent.

Although Dr. Bhatt did not differentiate between Hindus and Muslims and did what he thought was his duty, certain sections of Memdavad society were very upset with him for helping Muslims and gave him a Muslim name, Dr. Bhattiara. However, Dr. Bhatt has no regrets about his actions and is happy to note that the communal fringe has been isolated and communal harmony once again prevails in his town.

Archived from Communalism Combat, June 2004 Year 10   No. 98, Cover Story 7



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