Opinion : Dr Sudhakar could have been India’s George Floyd

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George Floyd, an African-American, was choked to death after a white American cop pinned him down. It just took less than 9 minutes to snuff out George Floyd’s life. Back home, Dr Sudhakar Rao was pinned down on the streets in Vizag much like George Floyd in the United States. Dr Sudhakar Rao’s hands were tied to a rope. He was dragged on the streets in the sweltering heat as if he was a dead dog. The police, as shown in the videos, were seen shooing away the bystanders who tried to help Dr Sudhakar, a Dalit. Over the three weeks, the visuals have dominated headlines in the local, national and even international media.

In the video, at least four cops encircled Dr Sudhakar, one was tying a rope to his hands, another was beating him with a baton even as the doctor repeatedly pleaded, “Nannu chempastaru”(They will kill me). The bystanders watched helplessly even as Dr Sudhakar was beaten. The similarities between both the events – George Floyd and Dr Sudhakar – in the two countries are striking as are the differences.

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of the US police has shaken the collective conscience of the Americans. The US has witnessed a massive civil unrest following the killing of George Floyd.

While the US has erupted into flames over the heinous murder by a white policeman of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, people in India remained a mute spectator to the police atrocity against Dr Sudhakar whose only fault was to raise voice against the shortage of medical equipment. In the past few days, lakhs of Americans took to the streets and had bent on their knees to protest George Floyd’s killing; a symbolic imagery of his death. “Can’t breathe,” was the last words of George Floyd when a cop pinned him down with his feet on the black man’s neck. Americans took “Can’t breathe” as the slogan of protest. Their voices reverberated in the US. The wide-spread protests in the US over Floyd’s killing had even forced US President Donald Trump, as reported by the New York Times, to hide in a bunker.

In his statement to the CBI which is investigating the case as ordered by the High Court, Dr Sudhakar narrated the horrifying tale. “On May 16, I drove to a bank on in Anakapalli to deposit Rs 10 lakh towards clearing housing loan. I was stopped by a person at Kailsapuram Anjaneyaswamy temple. I noticed that two persons on a bike followed my car. I was stopped by two traffic constables. They snatched away my car keys, my wallet and Rs 10 lakh. Further, I have noticed that the cops have put three bottles of whiskey in my car. I was later beaten with lathis and they kicked me. I was taken to Four Town police station. After my mother arrived in the police station, the police shifted me to KGH hospital. After which, they declared that I am suffering from acute stress psychosis,” Dr Sudhakar stated.

Unfortunately, in India, a victim is being treated as if he is accused. He was not just pinned down and dragged on the streets, he was in fact sent to a mental asylum. For the last three weeks, the doctor is languishing the mental asylum in Vizag while his mother is running from pillar to post seeking justice. The High Court had ordered a CBI investigation, while YSRCP leader Aamachi Krishna Mohan questioned the wisdom of the court asking “Why a CBI probe into a petty case”. For Aamachi and the likes, dragging an individual does not amount to rights violation, does not amount to infringement of an individual’s right to speech and freedom of expression. It is a petty case when a doctor is beaten on the streets, treated worse than a dog, sent to an asylum. Further, the CBI took taking into account the police version had filed cases against Dr Sudhakar.

What is wrong with this society? People in India have failed to seize the opportunity to expose the excesses of the Andhra Pradesh government. They failed to unite the way Americans did to protest the injustice heaped on the black community. Why didn’t AP simmer with anger to stamp out the scourges of injustice against Dr Sudhakar. Have people in India lost their collective conscience?

– Srikanth

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