Quota protestors caned in Patna

Thirty-five people were injured in a bout that pursued between policemen and pro-quota protestors.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 15:51 IST

Pro-quota medical students and doctors staging a rally on Friday attacked mediamen and police, who retaliated with a heavy baton-charge.

Police said 35 people, including 15 members of the media and policemen, were injured in the action. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar directed state police chief Ashish Ranjan Sinha to probe the incident and submit a report.

Claiming that the media was "suppressing" the proposed 27 per cent reservations for OBCs in institutions of higher learning, the protestors launched an unprovoked attack with sticks and other objects at hand on photo- journalists and TV cameramen covering their rally.

Hundreds of students and resident doctors, who had taken out the procession from Gandhi Maidan and were shouting slogans against those who opposed reservations, also attacked policemen in the busy Dak Bungalow roundabout.

The police then resorted to a heavy baton-charge against the protestors, leaving over 20 of them injured, officials said.

Photographers of the Press Trust of India, Times of India and Hindustan Times, cameramen of Star News and Aaj Tak TV channels and some journalists were injured. A couple of lensmen suffered head injuries and were rushed to Patna Medical College Hospital.

Policemen were seen mercilessly beating the students, who scurried for cover on Frazer road, eyewitnesses claimed.

The students charged the press with "trying to suppress the Centre's move to reserve seats for OBCs". They also burnt effigies of anti-quota protestors.

Protest intensifies in Delhi

In Delhi, continuing their anti-reservation protests, striking medicos demanded that the number of seats in higher educational institutions be increased before implementing the proposed OBC quota-hike.

Joining the medicos in their protests, representatives of the AIIMS Faculty Association began a day-long fast without striking work.

"We are supporting the students and doctors and we want the government to listen to them," said Dr KK Handa, General Secretary of Faculty Association.

So far, the medicos had been demanding a total rollback of the proposed OBC quota in elite institutions of higher education. The agitating medicos have decided to continue their strike.

"The decision to continue to strike was taken at a General Body meeting of the students and resident doctors. Negotitaions are on but we will continue to strike," Vice President of AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association, Dr Subroto Mandal said.

The striking medics had met a group of ministers on Thursday who assured them that a mechanism was being worked out by which the number of seats in the general category would not come down with the implementation of the new quota policy.

"It is impossible to increase the number of seats as it also needs infrastructure, doctors, teachers etc," Mandal said.

He also said, "we want an assurance that unless the number of seats are increased with proper infrstructure, there should not be an increase in the quota from the current level."

Medicos are now also demanding setting up of an apolitical judicial committee comprising experts in different fields such as doctors, engineers, lawyers and scientists.

Mandal said some of the resident doctors are also continuing with their hunger strike.

He said no action has been taken by the government in response to the 24-hour notices issued to striking doctors. "We had burnt these notices as an expression of our solidarity," he said.

Meanwhile, the government said several of the striking doctors in hospitals have resumed duties. On Thursday, 91 doctors from AIIMS returned to work.

But Mandal dismissed the government's claim saying "only few doctors have joined and most of them are with us."

Health services continued to be affected in the hospitals of the national capital with only emergency and in-patient services running. There are only skeletal OPD services, sources said.

First Published: May 19, 2006 00:55 IST