Did a Rajasthan Hospital Refuse to Treat a Pregnant Muslim Woman?

In Rajasthan's Bharatpur district, Irfan Khan, an agricultural labourer from Sikri, has claimed that the Zanana District Hospital authorities refused to treat his eight-month pregnant wife Parveen because they were Muslim, leading to the death of his girl child on 4 April. After these allegations made headlines, the administration launched an investigation into the matter on 5 April and concluded that the claims could not be proven.

The three-page report was drafted by a Rajasthan government body, the Urban Improvement Trust, and submitted by its secretary Ummedi Lal Meena to Bharatpur Collector Nithmal Didei.

Irfan standing by his wife Parveen in Bharatpur’s government-run Zanana hospital an hour after their seventh child, a baby girl, died during birth in the ambulance.

While the report says the allegation of being refused treatment on the account of being Muslims can’t be proved, 34-year-old Irfan Khan and Congress cabinet minister Vishvendra Singh, who is from Bharatpur, have reiterated that it was bias stemming from the Tablighi Jamaat event.

The Quint brings you all three versions of the story — from Irfan Khan, the Congress MLA and from the Bharatpur administration.

'They Didn't Want to Take Risk': Irfan Khan

Speaking to The Quint from his home in Bela gaon in Nagar Tehsil of Sikri, 34-year-old Khan, who works as an agricultural labourer, shares his version of what happened on 4 April.

"It started when my wife, 32-year-old Parveen, was feeling uncomfortable. Our baby, our seventh now, was not due for another month. After some thought and talk, we decided to go to the nearest hospital," Khan said.

From the Sikri hospital, they were referred to Bharatpur civil hospital. Khan says here he was asked his name and other particulars while the doctors spoke to him. "They asked me where I came from and what my name was. As soon as I said ‘Sikri’, they looked up and started telling each other that I was from the Sikri pahaad where the 'tablighi jamaat had gone from'. They also said that they ‘should not take risk’ and referred us to a Jaipur hospital."

In Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district is this government-run Zanana hospital where Irfan and Parveen were referred to after they went to a local hospital in Sikri close to their village.

Khan says they had barely gone a kilometer away from the hospital when his wife, who was accompanied by his sister-in-law Fatima, delivered a baby girl in the back of the private ambulance they had hired. Rushing back to the hospital, Khan was unaware that the child was dead.

"I took the stretcher myself, picked up my wife and laid her on it. She was holding on to our daughter. The hospital did not let me in. They kept saying they had referred us to the Jaipur hospital so we should go back."

Irfan's U-Turn and Explanation

A day after telling the media that the hospital staff was negligent in giving his wife the care she needed as she was Muslim, Khan made a U-Turn from his claim.

In another video, he said, "I had a feeling then that this is happening with me because I’m a Muslim. Personally, the doctors did not say anything to me, this was only my personal thinking."

When confronted about his change of stance, Khan put out yet another video claiming that he was being “pressurised”.

"I shot that video only due to the pressure on me from the beginning. Some people kept telling me to not say anything, that I will face issues in the future. I gave into the pressure and said that it was only my thinking," he says in the new video.

Congress Minister Backs Khan, Says He Was Pressurised

Khan had called mediapersons to raise an alarm after the death of his child. It was only after they called people up, including Maharaja Vishvendra Singh, who is cabinet minister from Bharatpur, that Khan claimed that the authorities had indeed treated his wife.

In several tweets, Singh told a media channel, "I am in the government but sorry, the government machinery is trying to suppress it, the police and the administration together try to quell the matter."

In another tweet, he said, "It is clear that the government is trying to suppress the truth."

What Rajasthan Govt's Report Says

The report by the Rajasthan government has quotes of Khan, his sister-in-law Fatima and the doctor who attended Parveena at Zanana Hospital, Dr Rekha Jharwal.

The report quotes Khan to say, “While the doctor did not say that they will not treat me because I am a Muslim, they did ask my name and address and said that Tablighi Jamaat is from the same area. I was not abused or beaten.”

The report also has Fatima's quote, which says, "They referred us to the hospital in Jaipur, but during this time, they did not abuse us or hit us. Nor did they tell us that since we were Muslims we will not be treated."

Lastly, we have Dr Rekha Jharwal who said that she met Parveena at 8:50 am and she was admitted to the hospital.

"She had excessive bleeding due to which her body was weak and the child's heartbeat could not be heard. It was looking at her critical condition that she was referred to the hospital in Jaipur. I did not behave badly with her or say that we will not treat her as she is a Muslim."

The report also adds how in the month of March 2020, the hospital in question had eight Muslim women delivering babies. Therefore, based on all these things, the report says it can be concluded that the allegation of bias cannot proved.

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