Medical professionals challenge Indian Medical Association (IMA)


The National President and Honorary Secretary General of Indian Medical Association (IMA), on behalf of its 2.6 lakh members, have written a letter to Home Minister Shri Raj Nath Singh condemning the ‘anti-national’ incident that had taken place recently at JNU. The office bearers have appealed to the government to take strict and necessary action against any persons or organizations or group carrying out any ‘anti-national’ protests, speeches, debates or writings in the country. They have also appealed to the government that investigations should be fair and free and the culprits be punished as early as possible as per the law so that in future no one can dare to do ‘anti-national’ activities in the country. The office-bearers have extended their whole-hearted support to the government in this matter, again, on behalf of it 2.6 lakh members. As per the statement of IMA’s Honorary Secretary General published in The Hindu on 24th February 2016, this letter is also an intervention to tell medical students, nursing students etc. that ‘anti-national’ activities will not be tolerated and that such ‘anti-national’ incidents should be curbed and not debated upon.

For anybody who may be unaware of the ‘anti-national’ incident at JNU being referred to in the above-mentioned letter, here is a description:

On 9th February 2016, a group of JNU students organised a cultural evening of protest with poets, artists, singers, writers, students, intellectuals, cultural activists. It was titled ‘Country without a Post Office’ and the poster publicising the event mentioned ‘against the Brahminical Collective Consciousness, against judicial killing of Afzal Guru and Maqool Bhatt, in solidarity with the struggle of the Kashmiri people for their democratic right to self-determination’. The posters were displayed across the campus few days prior to the event, and necessary permission for organizing this event was taken from appropriate authorities. Few minutes prior to the commencement of the program, the organizers were told that the permission has been cancelled. It was apparent that the cancellation of permission has been effected by a right-wing student’s party. Consequently, the organizer sought support from other student parties aligned with left-wing ideology. With crowd from both ideological poles around, the scheduled event was held. During this event, and especially towards its end, slogans related to following issues were shouted (as per the videos shown by various news channels): freedom from social evils like poverty, hunger, patriarchy, feudalism, brahminism; right to self determination of Kashmiri people; innocence of Afzal Guru. JNU students can be identified shouting these slogans. Some of the videos flashed on national media also show pro-Pakistan and anti-India sloganeering by people who can’t be clearly identified. Police was present on-campus during this event and was a witness to this event, but no complaint was formally registered. This event was then subjected to media trial, followed by a formal police complaint and arrest of the President of JNU Students Union.

Discussing complex social and political issues which don’t have clear and obvious answers has been a tradition in JNU. Taking things at their face value, accepting the obvious and getting swayed by rhetoric is not what Universities stand for. It is vital for a university to have a culture of questioning, fearless expression of opinions and respect for dissent. These attributes are expected to be the foundation of any institution meant for training young minds to learn and generate knowledge that is of value to human society. However, the issues discussed and opinions articulated, both within the classroom and outside, may sometimes surprise and even shock people who are new to the disciplines of social sciences and humanities. That is exactly where Doctors are, in general, located. But then, this is not the issue under immediate focus. Let’s return to the IMA’s letter in question.

IMA, in its white paper on Dr. Ketan Desai, mentions that he has to be taken as innocent until and unless he is proved to be guilty and convicted for the same. Then how do the office bearers of IMA label the incident in JNU as ‘anti-national’ when the matter is still sub-judice? Delhi Police, and Ministry of Home Affairs which regulate it, have come under severe criticism for mis-handling the JNU incident and the events that followed it. The key evidence, available in form videos aired by some news channels, is itself under suspicion of being fabricated. There is a huge legal debate over whether the charges applied on the students actually hold ground even if the controversial slogans had been shouted by them. Why then did the office bearers of IMA chose to take sides in this issue? Is that how ‘scientific’ people act? Did this stand serve any ‘national’ interest?

Moreover, does the above-mentioned letter really reflect the opinion of 2.6 lakh members of IMA as it claims to? It is difficult to believe that such a large number of well-informed people, spread across a country as diverse as India, can share a common ideological stand on such an issue. It is only in matters related to bio-medical ethics, international humanitarian laws and conventions – which are binding on all doctors – that the office bearers can take the opinion of individual members as granted. One doesn’t have to deliberate on the subject of medical neutrality in times of war or conflict. But if even the State branches of IMA are not consulted on issues like the one in question, it appears to be a grim reflection of the generalized and widespread attempts to shrink democratic spaces.

What is even more distressing is the assertion by IMA office-bearers that no ‘anti-national’ discussions or debates will be tolerated in medical colleges. Nationalism is something that develops at the level of consciousness. Different people have different ways of internalizing and expressing their relationship and allegiance to their country. In absence of a standard definition of nationalism, anything and everything can be labeled as ‘anti-national’. If a medical student from Kashmir or Nagaland talks about the impact of continuous presence of army on civilian life, or, if a medical student from Chhattisgarh or Jharkhand talks about the relative lack of public services in tribal belts, s/he may be termed anti-national. So, the diktat seems to be not to discuss anything at all.

Medical students and doctors are a part of general society, and they share the diversity that exists around them. If this diversity of culture, and that of opinion, is not expressed and discussed, one may never learn to respect it. It is this freedom (‘aazaadi’) for which Nobel laureates and academicians across the world are concerned, and it is as much relevant to medical colleges as it is to any university anywhere. JNU is only a reference case.

The irresponsible behavior of a section of media, police and State in this incident needs no further mention. What makes one really apprehensive is the way members of professional groups are increasingly reacting, and taking sides. The hooliganism displayed by a group of Lawyers in Patiala House Court is a dark testimony to this. The way office-bearers of IMA have reacted, adds to the gloom. We, the undersigned, strongly condemn their stand and the un-democratic process they used to arrive at it.


S. No. Name Designation Institution
1 Ayanava Basu Surveillance Medical Officer National Polio Surveillance Project, West Bengal
2 Debadutta Parija Medical Officer Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND)
3 Dhiren Modi Community Health Physician Sewa Rural, Jhagadia
4 Imrana Qadeer Senior Fellow Council for Social Development
5 Jayanta K Das Visiting Dermatologist RK Mission Seva Pratisthan, Kolkata
6 Jayesh Khaddar M. Phil. Student Centre for Law and Governance, JNU
7 Jnan Sil   West Bengal
8 KM Shyamaprasad Chancellor Martin Luther Christian University, Meghalaya
9 Mohan Rao Professor Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
10 Mohd. Shaffi Assistant Professor Global Institute of Public Health, Thiruvananthapuram
11 Mohit P. Gandhi PhD Student Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
12 Naresh Potter Advisor, National TB Control Program Ministry of Health, Saudi Arabia
13 Prabir Chatterjee   Medico Friends Circle
14 Prachin Ghodajkar Assistant Professor Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
15 Priyanka Roy PhD Student Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
16 Punyabrata Gun   Shramjibi Swathya Udyog, Chengail
17 Purvi Verma MPH Student Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
18 Rakesh Parashar State Team Lead (HP) RMNCHA – IPE Global
19 Ritu Priya Mehrotra Professor Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
20 Ruma Das PhD Student Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
21 Sachin Arora Deputy Medical Superintendent Batra Hospital, New Delhi
22 Sanjib Mukopadhyay   IMA Kolkata Branch
23 Sayan Das MPH Student Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
24 Shah Alam Khan Professor Department of Orthopedics, AIIMS, New Delhi
25 Shamim Manan Medical Consultant WHO-RNTCP Technical Assistance Project, Central TB Division
26 Siddhartha Yadav PG Student (Orthopedics) DY Patil Medical College, Mumbai
27 Sumitran Basu PhD Student School of Social Sciences, JNU
28 Vikas Bajpai Assistant Professor Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU

(as on 16/03/2016)


10 thoughts on “Medical professionals challenge Indian Medical Association (IMA)”

  1. Several lawyers made their position clear at the Patiala House courts. Perhaps we shall now see JNU students being roughed up by doctors in public hospitals.


  2. I believe, it’s in hurry without sufficient knowledge IMA has reacted to the issue without taking its members into the confidence and it’s done to prove their loyalty to the Government. I don’t support IMA stand.


  3. I would have gladly joined as a co-signatory of this letter. The IMA is a trade union of practicing doctors and a large number of doctors are not members. It has no legal/moral role in medical education. Their stand that “no ‘anti-national’ discussions or debates will be tolerated in medical colleges” is proclaiming a kind of vigilantism, which I hope the colleges will not submit to!! On the other hand, there are no ‘medical’ JNUs!!


  4. Medical professionals are ‘social animals’ too! They live in the same society as the other professionals. They too have the right to react to political events and oppose the State – sponsored terrorism. Healthcare is a fundamental right iof every citizen and medicos have responsibility to reach out to all sections of people. Their ‘scientific I analysis must be extended to social and political problems. The right wing fanatics have seeped into medical bodies with crude hindutva medicine. They are destroying social fabric. Hence, medical students and practioneers must unitedly come forward to not only provide medical care to Maoists and adivasis but also oppose the fanatics and government – sponsored anti -peoples policies.


  5. I would like to be added as a signatory to this letter/document as a member of the IMA. The IMA did not consult us – or even advertise that they will send out such a ‘loyalty to king’ letter on behalf of me and I daresay many, many of our colleagues across the country.

    In fact we should, as members of IMA who do NOT endorse such a craven and limited view of ‘de-nation’ and nationality, explore possibilities of legal recourse against these office bearers of the IMA for posting such a craven letter. I am willing to support such an endeavor.

    Amitrajit Saha (Member IMA)


  6. Yesterday Bar Council, today IMA.. tomorrow some other professional group…agenda is clear …a dangerous is not just is systematic attempt to capture the public space by muffling the other voice…just like ultra left ..this needs to be countered lest it should get late….


  7. I am an IMA member for several years. It’s one of the most worthless organization, just like a snake without venom. Suddenly, it has started regurgitating its venomous venom on their on, without any general consensus. It is absolutely mean and dangerous.


  8. As an IMA member, I feel cheated at being made part of this kind of letter by the office bearers on our behalf. I Wholeheartedly condemn their action and support your views on the value of liberal thinking and dissent with space for questions and discussions.


  9. Read with interest the different aspects of this debate which has torn India apart…and paraphrasing James Clifford-…” this is about dismembered nations, waiting to be reinvented.”

    We in Tripoli, read and discussed the issue, with some Libyan Arab doctors and also expatriate professionals from Europe-Asia who work here. (they do read Tagore and Amartya Sen here too..).

    The type of discourse which wants to project a dominant culture with no internal variations, contradictions, multiplicities, or fractures is similar to what their ideological counterparts in Fundamentalist organizations want to present in this part of the world.

    Reminded me of what James Clifford the Professor of History of Consciousness wrote when he compared Said with Conrad, noting that any residual faith in culture is basically an act of willed belief, in an age of immense cultural change:

    “ It is the virtue of Orientalism that it obliges its readers to confront such issues at once personally, theoretically and politically. For its author, as for Conrad, there are no natural solutions. Palestine is perhaps the twentieth-century’s Poland, a dismembered nation to be reinvented. Said, like the Polish-English writer whom he admires and frequently quotes, recognizes that personal and cultural identities are never given but must be negotiated.”

    Medical campuses and institutions do have a rich tradition of intellectual debate and discussion.

    Though we may not be as learned as the scholars who are debating at an international level..we as medical workers visit and revisit misery at a very personal-direct level on a day-to-day basis

    The office bearers of IMA do not reflect the opinion of many members of IMA. I myself am life-member of IMA and do not subscribe to their view of the debate.

    The debate has been enriched by many, and as P Sainath said in his address at the JNU campus, this fight is about something much larger than the local issue involved..the criminalization of Dissent.

    What Cultural Identity and Consciousness are we negotiating or fighting For?


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