The JNU violence that broke out on the evening of the 5th of January rocked the country, but more importantly, discredited the deeply motivated and partisan media. Today, OpIndia debunked a so-called sting operation by India Today where they tried to pass off a JNUSU activist as an ABVP member who had purportedly mobilised other ABVP workers and indulged in violence in JNU. Earlier, NewsLaundry and Barkha Dutt had touted one Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti as the representative voice from AIIMS. We had revealed that they were being rather stringent with the truth.
NewsLaundry and Barkha Dutt had quoted Dr Bhatti as an AIIMS doctor to allege that ABVP members received only superficial injuries during the JNU violence, however, the Left students had been injured grievously. It was, however, revealed that Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti is not a doctor at the AIIMS. His Twitter profile says he was president of the Resident Doctors’ Association at AIIMS but does not inform about his current medical practice. The Alumni page of AIIMS says that he is working at Manipal Hospital in Delhi. But the website of the hospital lists no doctor by that name. Moreover, when defence analyst Abhijit Iyer-Mitra called the hospital, he was informed that they have no doctor by that name.
As it turned out, Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti is the National Convenor of the All India Medical Cell of the Congress party. In February last year, he was appointed to the post in the Congress party. Not just the Congress party, he is also close with the Bhim Army. He claims to the doctor of Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad and has been very vocal in demanding medical care for Azad who is currently in jail, claiming that he is extremely unwell. He is not just a healthcare provider for Azad, but also a supporter, as he has been seen posting tweets with the hashtag #AzaadiForAzad.
Read: Newslaundry quotes doctor to say JNU ABVP students received only “superficial” injuries. They lied: Here is the truth
Clearly, Dr Bhatti has no authority in AIIMS, has no right to comment on the medical care of the students, whether ABVP or Left students and is being used by the media as an independent voice, while he has deep political links and is a formal member of the Congress party.
Recently, several students from ABVP also claimed that AIIMS ended up discriminating on the basis of ideology and gave sub-standard care to ABVP students after the JNU violence. To a video posted by Swarajya journalist, Dr Bhatti proceeded yet again to misrepresent himself as an individual who has the authority to comment on the behalf of AIIMS.
This is false claim. AIIMS never discriminates anyone. I was present at the scene and can vouch that all the students were getting the best treatment possible. In fact, when Brinda Karat went to check up on the ABVP students, she was shouted at and forced to leave by them. https://t.co/AoufIhx3aX
— Harjit Singh Bhatti (@DrHarjitBhatti) January 10, 2020
As it turns out, the romance between the established media and Dr Bhatti is not new. From as far back as 2017, the media has been publishing comments by Dr Bhatti without any indication of his political affiliation. In fact, this phenomenon has continued well into 2020, almost a year after he became a post-holder in the Congress party.
Here are some instances that detail the raging romance between the partisan media and a Congress leader masked as an independent doctor.
National Medical Commission Bill issue
On July 24th 2019, the Statesman carried a news article about “Delhi doctors” protesting against the National Medical Commission Bill.
The article quotes Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti extensively, who trashes the National Medical Commission Bill extensively. While we are not getting into the merits of his statements, it is pertinent to note that the article fails to mention that Dr Bhatti is a post-holder in the Congress party.
The article was published in July 2019 and Dr Bhatti was appointed as the Congress national convenor of the All India Medical Cell in February 2019. It is dishonest on the part of the media to not identify him by that affiliation and let their readers decide whether his opinions are coloured by his political affiliation or not.
Left-leaning rag The Caravan too published a report quoting Dr Bhatti recently but without identifying him as a Congress functionary.
The headline of the article by The Caravan was “How the police prevented medical volunteers from working at the CAA protests”.
The entire article by The Caravan is based on what Dr Bhatti claims without once mentioning that Bhatti is, in fact, a Congress post-holder.
The first instance when Caravan quotes Bhatti, they write, “At around 10.30 pm, one doctor and one lawyer was allowed inside to meet the detainees. The doctor was Harjit Singh Bhatti, a 33-year-old who is also the national president of the Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum. The PMSF is a collective of around a hundred doctors from all over the country, which was initially formed to fight the perpetuation of pseudo-science and superstitions. Inside the police station, Bhatti found that the detainees, including the minors, were “wreathing in pain” and in need of medical assistance”.
While Caravan introduces him as the PMSF president, they fail to mention the Congress connection.
The Caravan further prints outlandish claims solely by Dr Bhatti, emphasising on so-called police brutality on the rioters, without any independent verification whatsoever. In doing so, Caravan paints Bhatti as an independent doctor instead of a Congress leader with a political motivation to fan anti-CAA protests and discord.
JNU violence again
On the 6th of January, Indian Medical Association released a statement about the attack on doctors and nurses who were trying to treat patients. Moneycontrol while covering this letter, embedded a tweet by Dr Bhatti. The article was headlined, “JNU violence: ‘Is this civil war’, asks IMA, claims attack on doctors reaching out to injured students”.
In quoted Dr Bhatti, this is how they introduced him.
Nowhere in the headline, do they mention Dr Bhatti as a Congress functionary.
Doctor of BHIM Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad
During the anti-CAA riots, when BHIM Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad was detained, it was alleged that his health was deteriorating in prison and that he was being denied medical care.
Scroll and several other media portals identified Dr Bhatti only as Azad’s doctor without mentioning that he was also a Congress office-bearer.
The romance between Media and Dr Bhatti started way back in 2017, at least.
Kafeel Khan is one of the accused in the BRD Medical College and Hospital children’s death case in Gorakhpur. He had taken to social media to spread false news that he had been given a ‘clean chit’ in the 2017 case in a departmental inquiry. The Uttar Pradesh government had in October initiated a fresh inquiry against him for spreading misinformation in the media and forcibly entering a hospital and trying to treat patients during his suspension period.
While the debate was raging on, the one Doctor to categorically come to Kafeel Khan’s defence was Dr Harjit Bhatti.
He was at that time serenaded by fake-news peddlers NDTV.
Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti on @LRC_NDTV | Watch LIVE: https://t.co/hMlRpgrUU6 pic.twitter.com/Xo0WbYGtgw
— NDTV (@ndtv) August 14, 2017
He was also quoted by Hindustan times which in turn was even quoted by Dailymail.co.uk.
The media has been using Dr Bhatti and publishing his comments for years now. However, the most shocking case of media irresponsibility is when even after his appointment as the National Convenor of the All India Medical Cell of the Congress party, they continue to project him as an independent voice with no political affiliations.
Read: JNU violence: Congress connection emerges after WhatsApp conversation of coordination of violence goes viral
The media generally shies away from mentioning political affiliations because they would want their readers to believe in what the subject is saying unequivocally without questioning his motives. Had the media mentioned Dr Bhatti’s political affiliation to Congress, the agenda against the Modi government would perhaps not be as easy to sell as the readers would evaluate his comments with the prism of his political affiliation to Congress.
While one can’t blame Dr Bhatti for doing what a politician does, one certainly wonders what motivates the media to hide vital and relevant information from its readers in order to push a political narrative.