Discrimination is a universal phenomenon. It has been experienced all over the world based on geographic and social identity, such as race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, caste, etc. In India, access to resources and opportunities, especially health services, is influenced by one’s caste, religion, and gender identity. It has evidently documented drastically uprising discrimination against religious minority communities since the right-wing came into power, particularly against Muslims.
Ranchi! Ranchi… is not an example of deepening communalism in the health system but it shows that the health system could not remain untouched. An Islamophobic public doctor openly stated to a Muslim “aap jihad Karne ke liye aaye hai” (you have come to do Jihad). And, she refused to deliver her service because the patient was a Muslim.
Deeply, she delivered a judgment that Muslims are responsible for the huge population of the country and because the country is suffering from a scarcity of resources. This fake narrative has been circulated and publicly propagated by the nationalist population, leaders, and media. Every day, several discrimination cases are reported against Muslims while accessing health services. Yet, there is a large number of unreported cases. Muslims find it difficult to report even because of discrimination.
Rosina Nasir has studied discrimination against Muslim women in a public hospital in Delhi (Kasturba Gandhi Hospital). She analyzed perceived experiences of discrimination while accessing health services. The doctor did not only misbehave with women patients but also used derogatory remarks to diminish their respect, hurt their sentiments, and violated their human rights.
India is a huge country with the second largest population in the world, but often there is pin drop silence to demand justice for Muslims and claim equal rights for them. During my research, I have reported and documented several cases of discrimination against Muslims in public hospitals, including the prestigious health institution BHU (Banaras Hindu University) hospital. It is known as AIIMS for East Uttar Pradesh and West Bihar.
Consequently, Muslims hesitate to visit public hospitals due to mistreatment and discrimination because of their religious identity. Therefore, Muslims prefer to visit private clinics or hospitals, but at the same time, a large section of Muslims have been deprived to access due to backwardness, particularly socioeconomic backward. It creates a gap that has to fill but the question is how and who will do it.
I have conducted an ethnographic study of Muslim’s health behavior in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar area. My thesis has manifestly documented the absence of public health system in Jamia and the poor health behavior of Muslims living in Jamia. Though these residents did not experience discrimination based on religious identity, they have narrated their vulnerability to access better health services due to poor economic status.
There are many reasons for the flourishing private health system in Jamia and discrimination is one of the significant reasons for the development of the private health system. Usually, Muslims prefer to live or to say, forced to live in a Muslim settlement which is interchangeably used as a ‘Muslim ghetto’. Apparently, better health service is absent. Denial and Deprivation have been documented in the Sachar Committee Report in every domain of Muslim life and Muslim settlement. And, this report partially focused on the health status of Muslims and the health system in Muslim settlements.
Therefore, the private system fills this gap when the public system fails to provide equal health services to everyone. Although the private system has many shortcomings, vulnerable Muslims do not have any other way out. Eventually, both the public and private health systems crushed the poor and Muslims.
The author is a Ph.D. Scholar at the Center of Social Medicine and Community Health in JNU. He is currently working on ‘Marginalization and Health related events of Muslims’. He can be reached at ISTIKHARALI88@gmail.com)