Chief Photographer, Mumbai Mirror
What happens when overzealous cops, administrators shut the doors to JJ Hospital, all to keep Indrani safe
The news of Indrani Mukerjea’s overdose and her admission in JJ Hospital galvanized all of us in the newsroom. I followed my other photographer colleagues to JJ, less than five kilometres from the office of Mumbai Mirror, a little later. We were all trying to get an exclusive photograph— perhaps of her husband Peter Mukerjea coming to visit her–but It was not to be. For after some time the JJ security came and shooed the media out of the hospital. I looked at my watch as I exited the back gate—it was 11.35 pm. I drove towards the main gate of the hospital hoping to catch some action there. On my way, about 300 meters from the hospital main gate, I spotted a man, he looked elderly writhing on the ground and foaming at the mouth. Standing next to him was another young man who was asking passers by for water and for help in lifting the old man.
This young man was Ashish Singh, a resident of Nagpada and he was the elderly man Mohammad Siddiqui’s son’s friend. Siddiqui and his son were both cooks and ran a small catering business from Nagpada. When Siddiqui reported feeling uneasy, the son who was away at work called up Ashish Singh and requested him to take his father to JJ Hospital. By the time Ashish Singh arrived at JJ with a clearly breathless Siddiqui, Indrani Mukerjea had been brought in, and with her came all the paraphernelia. The police, hoping to avoid a media scrum, ordered that all the gates of the hospital be shut. When I met him Ashish Singh and Siddiqui had been trying in vain to get into the hospital through either the main gate or the casualty gate. The back gate through which I had exited was some 500 meters away and Siddiqui was in no position to walk there. He was also too heavy for me and Ashish to shift him on my bike. Instead I thought I should simply go and get help. And this where the nightmare began.
Back inside the hospital I spotted a constable and told him about the old man. The security said he was on his “duty” and suggested I go to the dean’s office. Two securitymen outside JJ dean TP Lahane’s office said they did not have permission to open the gate and directed me to casualty to get a stretcher but there was no stretcher to be found. Instead I found a cop who told me to call “BMC”. Within minutes I saw Dr Lahane come in. I introduced myself and told him about Siddiqui. Dr Lahane then asked the security at casualty to get a stretcher and also a ward boy to accompany me. Saying that he left on his round. The stretcher came but the ward boy never turned up. Though the place was teeming with additional police force brought for Indrani Mukerjea, not one of them was willing to help me. Finally, I picked up the stretcher and began to run towards where Siddiqui was. En route, I saw deputy commissioner of police Shisve whom I have known for some time. DCP Shisve was supervising the security arrangements. I told him what had happened and requested him to open the gate so Siddiqui could be brought in. He told me to instead call the police control room. This was such irony given the number of policemen swarming all around. I told him Siddiqui needed urgent help, I couldn’t wait to call the control room. Further down I met two men who had also spotted Siddiqui— these two men were relatives of patients already admitted, and they readily agreed to help me.
Together with these two men and Ashish we finally managed to put Siddiqui on the stretcher and we walked about 400-500 meters to the casualty ward. It was past midnight. It had taken first Ashish Singh and then me close to an hour just to get Siddiqui into the hospital from the main gate. Mind, this is a state-run hospital, meant to serve the poor. This delay proved too costly for Siddiqui (so much for the golden hour that doctors keep harping on). At quarter past midnight he was declared dead. I absorbed the news and came out where I again saw DCP Shisve marshalling his force efficiently.
At 1 am Siddiqui’s son Wasim arrived and began to thank me profusely for trying to help. “This city is not for poor people, but at least you tried to help. Thank you,” he said through his tears. The next morning I learnt that some photographers had managed to get into the intensive care unit and take a photo of Indrani. So much for the police then. All that these cops could do was keep a poor dying man out of the hospital.
ONE DEATH, DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS
DCP Ravindra Shisve
I’m aware of the incident. On Friday night, I had conducted a surprise check at JJ to monitor the security arrangements, considering the admission of a highprofile accused. In fact, the police at the hospital helped Ansari’s family get a stretcher.
Dr TP Lahane, JJ Dean
No such incident occurred. The patient had died around two hours prior to being brought to the hospital. There were no police restrictions in the hospital corridor as alleged.
Wasim Ansari, The Victim’s Son
I was away at work on Friday night when my father complained of severe chest pain. Our neighbour rushed him to JJ Hospital. I was told that when the taxi reached the hospital gate, the cops asked them to enter the hospital from a different gate. When they reached another gate, they were directed to a different gate. He struggled for more than half-anhour to enter the hospital. We were not provided with a stretcher. We kept requesting the cops who shooed us away.