The Assam Police on Sunday detained at least 21 people after the doctor of a tea estate in Jorhat district was beaten to death by workers on Saturday, The Indian Express reported.

The workers blamed 73-year-old Deben Dutta for not being present at the hospital when Majhi, a 33-year-old worker, was admitted in a critical condition around noon at the hospital in Teok Tea Estate on Saturday. By the time the doctor returned around 3.30 pm, Majhi had died. Angry workers then beat him up and locked him in a room.

Jorhat Superintendent of Police NV Chandrakant said a mob of around 250 to 300 people had gheraoed the hospital, vandalised it and attacked the doctor. “They hit him and even cut him with glass shards,” Chandrakant told The Indian Express. “He suffered head and leg injuries. The police arrived and rescued him. We shifted him to Jorhat Medical College and Hospital but he died on the way. We have detained 21 persons so far.”

A welfare officer who tried to pacify the crowd was also attacked by the mob.

Nilesh Gond, the secretary of the Jorhat district branch of the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, which is the largest trade union organisation of tea gardens of the state, said the patient got injured after he fell in the bathroom, and it could have been possible that he suffered a stroke. “The doctor came 30 minutes after the patient was brought in but by then Manjhi was already dead,” Gond said. “That infuriated the workers and they assaulted him. We condemn the violence.”

Gond added that 21 people who were detained belong to the tea tribe community.

The Teok Tea Estate is a tea garden owned by Amalgamated Plantations Private Limited, an enterprise carved out of Tata Tea Limited. The company has issued a lock-out notice, and said there was “total insecurity and chaos” in the tea garden and all its executives feared the safety of their lives. The estate will be locked till the atmosphere is conducive to function.

Indian Medical Association calls for strike

The state unit of the Indian Medical Association and the Assam Medical Service Association called for withdrawal of medical services from Tuesday morning to Wednesday morning as a mark of protest. In a statement, the state unit of the association said that the attack on Dutta had crossed “all tolerable limits”. A candlelight procession by doctors will take place at 7 pm on Tuesday.

The West Bengal Doctors Forum also condemned the killing of the doctor. “Dr Dutta was a 75-year-old physician who had involved himself in the service of his community even after retirement,” it said in a statement, NDTV reported. “The people he served thanked him by murdering him in front of police.”

The statement said that violence in healthcare has become a “way of life” for medical practitioners in India.

“Decades of service, out-of-hour help, solicited advice to the patients he served were washed away, forgotten and violently trashed by a moment of service inadequacy,” the statement said. “A life spent on giving and helping was snatched away mercilessly by the very people he called his own.”

In June, over 100 doctors working at state-run hospitals in West Bengal resigned amid country-wide protests against the assault on two interns at the NRS Medical College and Hospital in Kolkata. The doctors had been seriously wounded in the mob attack, which took place after a patient died the previous day. The matter was resolved only when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee agreed to the doctors’ demands for security and a safe working environment, among others.

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