Doctors withdrew their plan to light candles in homes and hospitals across India, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government promised to ensure their safety against rising violence over fears medical staff are spreading the deadly coronavirus.
The Indian Medical Association had planned the silent protest for 9 pm on Wednesday, a stark parallel to Modi's own exercise a few days earlier, when he urged Indians to light lamps to honor and support doctors. Home Minister Amit Shah, Modi's confidante, appealed to the IMA not to hold even a symbolic protest and assured them of safety and support.
"He has assured that government of India will take all necessary steps and come out shortly with relevant legislations to address the safety and dignity of doctors and healthcare givers," the IMA said in a statement Wednesday. It said it is withdrawing the protest "to maintain the unity and integrity of our country."
While a backlash against doctors has been seen from Australia to the Philippines, it's proving more widespread and intense in India, where trust in the healthcare system was already low, misinformation is rampant on social media, and tensions are mounting as the country's strictly enforced 40-day lockdown drags on.
Indian doctors over recent weeks have endured campaigns from their neighbors to force them out of apartment buildings, been attacked by a mob while tracing contacts of a coronavirus case through the slums, and have also been stopped by police and beaten with batons on the way back home from an emergency shift.
The final straw was an attack on a convoy carrying the body of a doctor who died of Covid-19. Local media published reports on how his family and friends were attacked by mobs wielding sticks and stones as they tried to bury him, and his colleagues broke down on TV as they narrated the ordeal.
"IMA has maintained utmost restraint and patience inspite of extreme provocation," the IMA had previously said, while calling for the protest. "If dignity is denied even in death, our patience and restraint lose their value."