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India: Muslim Doctor, Despite Warnings, Harasses Hindu Medical Student Until She Commits Suicide
“We demand an inquiry by a sitting high court judge into this murder.”
By Ashlyn Davis
A bright young medical student, Dr. Preethi Dharavath, attempted suicide on Thursday, February 22, and after an ordeal of three days, was declared dead on Sunday, February 26. She was undergoing treatment at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS) in Hyderabad. As per reports, Preethi injected herself with anesthesia drugs after being harassed to the point of ending her life by a Muslim senior physician, MA Saif. Saif is a second-year MD student at Kakatiya Medical College. Preethi had experienced a multi-organ failure, and her condition remained critical throughout her treatment. The hospital announced on Thursday night that ECMO and CRRT were instituted to maintain her failing lung, cardiac, and renal functions. A multidisciplinary team of experts continuously monitored her vital signs until she passed away. Though the victim is said to have injected herself with a muscle relaxant, the police are awaiting the toxicology examination report to take the investigation further.
Though the incident occurred on the 22nd, police did not arrest the accused until Friday, February 24, after a delay of two days. The police have also cited harassment-related laws and the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act in this case. In addition, they have levied charges of abetment to suicide against Saif.
Commissioner A V Ranganath had earlier confirmed that the victim was persistently targeted by Dr. Saif, who also intentionally attempting to degrade her. The police accessed her phone, examined the discussions between the two and their group chats, and reviewed their conversations with each other and with other classmates, before concluding that the victim had been subjected to harassment.
After careful observations, Ranganath stated that the victim had been targeted since she joined the anesthesia department in November 2022. He asserted that Preethi was brave and challenged her seniors, which irked the latter. On February 18, Saif reprimanded Preethi for a specific incident through a private group chat. Reacting to his constant harassment, Preethi said she felt offended and asked Saif to mind his business. “You are trying to insult me. In case you have anything to say, you should tell my HoD,” she added. The authorities state that the inquiry had revealed several such occurrences.
Commissioner Ranganath also confirmed that the institution’s authorities had spoken with Saif and Preethi, and Saif was given strict warnings against such behavior. An additional investigation was also initiated. But none of these warnings were severe enough to stop Dr. Saif, and the continuous harassment ended with 26-year-old Preethi injecting herself with a muscle relaxant from an emergency supply box. “We think she attempted suicide. The last search on her phone is about what happens if a healthy person takes this drug. Doctors believe it was a cardiac arrest. We are awaiting the toxicology examination report in one or two days,” the commissioner disclosed.
A statement released by NIMS Medical Superintendent Dr. N Satyanarayana on Sunday evening said: “Despite continuous efforts by a multidisciplinary team of specialist doctors, Dr. Preethi could not be saved and was declared dead on February 26, 2023, at 9.10 pm.”
Hyderabad Police deployed a massive force around the area to prevent agitation and stop furious members of student organizations from storming the hospital. Nevertheless, several student organizations outside the medical facility organized protests, demanding justice for Dr. Preethi. Later, Preethi’s body was taken to her native town in the Jangaon district for final rites.
The last time Preethi spoke to her father, D Narender, was on the evening of the incident. Saif had forced her to work extra hours. The father had contacted the police and complained to the local sub-inspector the same evening.
The bereaved father stated: “Doctors said there was no improvement, and her health condition remained as it was when she was first brought here, and there was no chance that she would survive.” He recalled how she had broken down on the phone when detailing the harassment by Dr. Saif. “I think Dr. Saif’s harsh actions led to my daughter’s death. He murdered her. He should receive the strictest punishment. I am not satisfied with the investigation by the Warangal Police. We demand an inquiry by a sitting high court judge into this murder,” he said. Meanwhile, the accused has not only argued otherwise, but blamed the outcome of his irresponsible actions upon the “prevailing culture among juniors and seniors” in the medical institution.