Victim critical, protesters try to enter ICU

Worried doctors issue appeals after live TV coverage brings hordes to Safdarjung hospital.

Public protests over the gangrape and torture of a 23-year-old woman on board a moving bus took a bizarre turn on Friday when one group staged a noisy protest at Safdarjung hospital, blocked the main gate and demanded that they be allowed to meet the woman who is battling for life in the ICU.

Eager to be on live TV as camera crews darted from one corner to another, protesters paid no heed to repeated requests to disperse. Finally, Dr B D Athani, medical superintendent of the hospital, had to intervene: "Please keep the hospital premises and periphery free from protests because the hospital is treating many other patients. We request you not to create any obstacle for our ambulances and other vehicles bringing in supply materials."

With many people turning up to meet the rape victim, worried doctors sent out urgent appeals, asking them to stay away. "We appeal to citizens not to come in queues to meet her. Trespassing in the ICU is not allowed since this increases the chance of infection. There are 15-20 other patients in the ICU who need to be taken care of," Dr Athani said.

He said "even the parents (of the victim) are requesting... let them take care of their daughter who is in the ICU with severe injuries". Asked whether this applied to politicians too who have been visiting the hospital, Dr Athani said: "No visitor means it is applicable to all."

Doctors said the noise from constant sloganeering was "disturbing" patients and doctors. The main gate of the hospital was blocked for about an hour, protesters jeering at police and demanding that they be let in.

"We have come from Munirka after we heard of her condition on television. We want to help her but the police are not allowing us in," said Shabana, one of the protesters. Other "visitors" were roaming the hospital, inquiring "which building is she in".

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