Is Raj Bala a victim of state crackdown or threat to democracy?

Yoga teacher battling for life since the midnight raid at Ramlila Maidan on June 4


Sonal Matharu | June 15, 2011

Raj Bala: Gurgaon-based yoga teacher who suffered critical injuries
Raj Bala: Gurgaon-based yoga teacher who suffered critical injuries

The centre has been deriding protests against corruption as a threat to democracy. The government, including prime minister Manmohan Singh, justified the midnight raid at Baba Ramdev's protest at New Delhi's Ramlila Maidan as an unfortunate decision to which there was no alternative.

The victims of the police action, however, tell a story of unprovoked crackdown.

Raj Bala, the 53-year old woman severely injured in the police action at Ramlila Maidan on the night of June 4, is "very critical" and showing no sign of improvement, according to the doctors treating her.

The Gurgaon-based yoga teacher suffered an injury to the spine when the police forced protesters who had joined Baba Ramdev's fast against corruption out of the venue. The injury has left her a quadriplegic - unable to move her limbs - and battling for breath, quite literally. Her family maintains that her injuries are the result of being hit by the police, while the police says that the 70-odd protesters rushed to hospitals that night were injured in a stampede.

"We have seen two marks of the lathi on her feet and her lower back. We couldn’t check if there are any marks on her neck because she vomits if her neck is moved,” said Rakesh Malik, her daughter-in-law. She added that Raj Bala’s clothes were not torn or dirty which means people did not step on her.

Raj Bala had joined Ramdev's protest fast on June 4, choosing to stay back at the venue even as her family returned home late that evening. At 3.30 am, her family was informed that she was injured and had been admitted at the Lok Nayak hospital in a semi-conscious state.

The yoga teacher is being treated at the Delhi government’s GB Pant hospital where she underwent tracheotomy on Monday. Her ventilator, which had been introduced orally, has now been shifted to an incision made in her throat.

Devendra Tai, an employee with member of parliament Rajeev Chandrashekhar, took Raj Bala to the hospital after the doctors on spot refused to attend to her. He says that after Baba Ramdev returned to the stage, the police got aggressive. Over 700 of the Baba's supporters had surrounded him on the stage and they had formed a human chain around him. Raj Bala was one of them. The police had started beating up the protestors and someone informed that there was a woman lying unconscious on the stage.

The police had surrounded the stage and people could not escape. With another man’s help, Tai managed to shift Raj Bala to the media room at the back of the stage.

“In the media control room we called for the doctor on the spot. The police had gone so aggressive by then that the doctor ran away in order to save his own life and refused to check the patients,” said Tai.

By then the police had started firing teargas and people started moving to the back of the stage. Tai, with some help, arranged a stretcher for Raj Bala and moved her out of the venue and called for an ambulance.

“If the police had planned such an action, they should have taken precautionary measures like stationing ambulances or fire brigade vans at the venue. We finally put her in a Maruti Omni van and took her to LNJP hospital,” said Devendra.

Even in the hospital very few doctors were on duty. Pankaj Kumar Sharma, a resident of Ghaziabad, was helping the injured who were being shifted to the hospital. He also assisted Raj Bala.

“She was lying in the hospital on a stretcher for about half-an-hour and no doctor attended to her. Meanwhile, she told me her name and gave her house phone number. She told me that she was hit by a lathi on her back and she fell,” said Pankaj, “She could not move her limbs but we never imagined her condition would be this serious.”

The Delhi government has promised to bear all the cost of Raj Bala’s treatment but with her condition deteriorating each passing day, there is little hope for her recovery.

Rakesh said there is no sensation in Raj Bala’s limbs. She cannot speak and can only understand sign language. Her pulse rate and blood pressure is being kept under control through medicines. She has been admitted at the hospital’s neurosurgery department intensive care unit.

“She (Raj Bala) was there for a social cause. Corruption is a public issue. We just want her to get better. We don’t need government’s help, even without their assistance, we would give her the best treatment,” said Rakesh.

Meanwhile, Tai insists that panic was created after the police got aggressive. “Had the police not behaved so aggressively, the doctor on spot could have helped her,” he said.



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