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A Taste of British Judiciary & infamous 'Bongal Kheda'
Dr. Rathin Datta FRCS (England, Edinburgh & Glasgow)
A Taste of British Judiciary & infamous 'Bongal Kheda'
PHOTO : Royal college of surgeon of England. File Photo

It started in middle of 1960.It was June when the infamous “ Bongal Kheda ” i.e drive the Bengalees out of Assam started, first in Guwahati Cotton college and spread rapidly to the rest of Assam. In Dibrugarh it was quite severe,in the mixed areas, the bengali houses were burnt, looted and the minority bengali occupents were beaten up, knifed,& driven out of the area .Our Surgical wards were overflowing dead and injured,mostly nonlocals and as the Registrar of Surgery of the Assam Medical College it was my duty to lead the surgical team.

I was born and brought up in Assam, spoke fluently the local language with the posh Jorhat accent and passed off as a true Assamese, moreover as a good footballer and hockey player was popular among the sports fraternity  in Dibrugarh, a  prosperous  town surrounded by Tea Gardens,timber producing forests,oil field of Digboi and coalmines.I was fairly well known as a sportsman in Dibrugarh.

Our family lived among Gurkha neighbourhood  in Shillong ,my pals included several Gurkha lads all good in art of  “maramaris”,  I had also become fearless and became proficient in the art of marpit and the art of KUKRI  fight.   I owned my own Kukri and carried it under my trouser (I still have my Kukri which I keep under my Pillows).

During the 60s June riot ,one after noon Dr Haru Sen, a prominent practitioner,tall and handsome a good boxer in his days  stopped me. I was furiously cycling down the main road.” Where do you think are you going? I was close to the Sen family, so replied” my friend Nirmal’s house been attacked and vandalised,it is in Chowkidingi, a bengali ghetto.”  And you are going to fight them, the rioter? he pointed at my Kukri.Give me your cycle &get into my car.My driver Bahadur is a Gorkha,he will take you there,he knows what to do.

So we went to Chowkidingi,a narrow road connects it to the main road The area was deserted,few stray dogs were barking. Bahadur drove round the big house, reversed onto the main  gate,kept the engine going.I emerged from the car,left the car door open .Entered the  house, all doors/ window were open,nothing left even the window/door curtains were   gone. The car horn rang once,turned around,saw I was getting surrounded, flashed my kukri,the attackers  retreated there were few known good  faces from the sports fraternity,  who whishpered  “polah polah ” i.e. run run.My kukri was swinging furiously with hits with the kukri-screams and swearing—and then I was in the car-Bahadur shot off-we escaped.

Later learnt that the family after being  tipped off by the friendly neighbours had escaped to their tea-garden  house the previous night.Nirmal with his family now lives in Salt lake in Calcutta where he has a good practice after retiring from the CHS.

Back to the college & hospital ,more riot hit patients!!.Informed uncle,Prof.Phani Datta, then the Director of INDASSON at Calcutta.

He arranged the Passport,the Foreign exchange,Ticket for Sea Voyage to London and also the seat in FRCS course in the Royal college of surgeon of England.

My elder brother, and eldest uncle Major H C Datta paid the cash to last 6 months in England

I resigned from my coveted Assam Medical College job and left Assam, my birth place,the beautiful  land and people,  with promise never to return.

Sailed from the port of Bombay.It was 16 days voyage to Tilbury dock,London

London at end of December was freezing, the Indian student’s hostel  was the most uncomfortable

Place in the world where  I ever stayed in,but the quality of teaching at the Royal college compensated all..After completion of this extensive course I applied for a House surgeon’s job in Orthopaedics and trauma.In June,1961 joined  the Royal Infirmary near Manchester,in Lancashire,North of England as the Senior House Officer {SHO} in the orthopaedic and emergency Dept.

London in end of December was freezing, the Indian student’s hostel  was the most uncomfortable

Place in the world where  I ever stayed in,but the quality of teaching at the Royal college compensated all..After completion of this extensive course I applied for a House surgeon’s job in Orthopaedics and trauma.In June,1961 joined  the Royal Infirmary near Manchester,in Lancashire,North of England as the Senior House Officer {SHO} in the orthopaedic and emergency Dept.

The staff were efficient and very friendly, but the Lancashire accent was terrible. In school and College in Shillong I had studied under the Scottish and Irish teachers and was quite comfortable with spoken english, was proficient in English language, but the Lancashire accent was totally foreign to me.My colleague Dr Donald Ranney  , a Canadian   summed up saying” in Lancashire though in England,  they do not speak in  English, I would agree."

The arrival :

the patient a 50 year old women was brought in a stretcher in a noisy entrance.She had been vomiting for 7 days,had no motion for 10 days and had intense pain in her abdomen..

Two sons and a GP :

.The two sons were large tall men in their  twenties over six feet & over bearinng and noisy ,started chanting “we want  to take our mommy home,make her better soon”The GP said it was no big deal,she has gastric flu.I did not know what the gastric flu was and told him so—he taunted that Indians [meaning me] donot know lot of things-the head nurse,sister  Pickup threw him out

I examined the patient—it was shocking! She was fiftyish,very tall  and fat a large woman in deep coma.Abdomen was  grossly distend pulse was imperceptable, BP was unrecordable.I completed my notes,started an infusion line and summoned the seniors.My diagnosis was –Internal strangulation of the gut,  massivegangrene of bowel,shock and multiorgan failure.

Patient was taken in ,intense therapy started,but the old girl died in the early evening.

We all went to the mandatory postmortem.As soon as the abdomen was incised 10 to 12 feet of gangrenous bowel tumbled out.The bowel wrapped around an old adhesiond .My assesment and diagnosis was proved correct.

Next week in the coroners court the GP was severely.reprimanded,very heavily fined & the case was refered to the British Medical council,who promtly removed his name from the Register.

The coroner invited me to his private chamber.He  told me that he had gone through my notes & thought I was too good for the SHO post that I was holding and that he was going to write to the Regional Hospital Board, how about it ? I politely told him that he was the judge and it was his right to record what he thought was best.

On return  to the hospital:

I checked in the Library:Gastric flu is a mediavel term denoting “unknown abdominal malady.

The surprise:

After a week,  the house keeper of the Doctors residence gave me a list of apartment numbers to choose from.The apartments were for higher rank officers.

Surprised , checked with the Hospital Secretary,he handed me the letter congratulating me-I had been  promoted out of turn to the post of Registrar of Surgery.

Dr. Rathin Datta, FRCS (England, Edinburgh & Glasgow).FFIMS (Athens) 

Eminent Surgeon & Sports Medicine Specialist, Retd. Chief Advisor of Surgery, GB & VM Hospitals, Govt of Tripura

Padmashree Awardee, winner of the Bangladesh Liberation war honour 

This article also published in Facebook www.facebook.com/tripurainfoway simultaneously.

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