Why are the security forces targeting a particular group of people in Lalgarh?
A BRIGHT PINK doctor’s chamber stands out among wood huts. Perhaps that is why it was one of the first places the paramilitary forces surrounded the day they arrived in Lalgarh. “They asked us whether he treated any bullet injuries,” says his wife Sulekha. “Then, they called him a Maoist doctor.”
Arrested for a murder committed two months earlier, where the complainant hadn’t even named him, booked for burning a police outpost on a day where his chamber diary shows he treated 16 patients, Jatin Pratihar, 52, is one of many arrested in Lalgarh post June 2009.
Pratihar sold his ancestral land to finance his studies and his clinic. With a homeopathy degree from Kharagpur Medical College, a pharmacy diploma from Calcutta University and three years experience in Midnapore’s Sadar Hospital, he returned to Lalgarh to work among the locals. Pratihar was the kind of doctor who’d go into the jungles at any time of night and even give his own blood when needed.
His arrest is significant as it seems to be part of a larger trend of arresting the most educated, the ones with the largest fields, the ones with brick houses. “No one has come to ask for our side of the story,” says Sulekha, in tears. “We have been isolated.”