New Delhi: Akram Khan, whose right hand had blown to smithereens during the 2020 Delhi communal riots and was left little to fend for the family of four, now hopes to get his prosthetic hand replaced with an imported bionic robotic hand.
All five fingers of this prosthetic hand move. It performs 14 functions controlled and guided by the individual's brain. The artificial limb performs 60-70% of human functions and can lift between 10-12 kg. It is based on the most advanced technology. It works on EMG signals. Its implant does not need surgery, but it is synced with brain signals.
So, how is it different from the natural human hand? Human hands perform multi-articulated functions, while bionic hands can perform only articulated functions. And therefore, it is 60-70% workable.
It is rechargeable and has a lithium ion battery. The hand can be opened 1,000 times daily, and it won't break if it falls to the floor.
"This prosthesis needs acquisition of control signals, which drive the movements of the robotic hand, and the transmission of sensory signals to convey information to the user about the consequences of these movements. The robotic hand is based on algorithms, advanced robotic mechanisms, mega-computers and mini-electronics. This artificial hand analyses EMG signals acquired from the human brain and works accordingly," Dr Neeraj Saxena, who will implant a ready-to-use bionic arm prosthesis on Khan at Delhi's Al-Shifa Hospital, told NewsClick.
The robotic hand costs over Rs 11 lakh, which has been funded by the Human Welfare Foundation.
Talking about the scheduled implant, Dr Arif Nadvi, national coordinator of the NGO's Medical Service Society, said disappointed with the lacklustre attitude of the Delhi government, Khan came in their contact. Despite undergoing four surgeries at GTB Hospital, he still needed proper medical attention, which was allegedly denied to him on several pretexts.
"We got him treated at Delhi's St Stephen's and Al-Shifa hospitals and extended some monetary help so that he starts earning a living. But because of the restrictions during the first lockdown, he could not begin any work, and the sum was exhausted in meeting the daily needs. After consulting expert doctors, we decided to go for the implant so that he can more remain handicapped and start doing works on his own," he said.
Fitted with a prosthetic right hand, which was of no use, Khan, the resident of Old Mustafabad, was trying to accomplish as much as possible with the other hand with an amputated index finger. He had yet to assimilate the idea that the carnage had left him permanently disabled.
A denim expert who used to work in a jeans workshop in Karol Bagh, Khan was going to attend a religious congregation in old Delhi's Kasab Pura on February 24, 2020. He returned home from work the previous night before violence broke out, following Kapil Mishra's controversial speech near Maujpur traffic signal.
He had not had even a remote idea that a low-intensity conflict between two groups would flare up into a war-like situation, engulfing almost the entire Trans Yamuna region. He was waiting to board his bus at the Yamuna Vihar bus stop.
Suddenly, Khan noticed people running around and a group of armed men hurling stones. He ran towards a traffic signal and took refuge at a grocery nearby.
Within minutes, a riot unfolded. As he stepped out of the shop, rioters caught him and began beating him after ascertaining his identity. He extricated himself but stumbled on a stone and fell.
"Soon after, a live explosive hit my right hand," he told NewsClick. "I lost consciousness."
Khan was administered first aid at Meher Hospital in Mustafabad and then rushed to GTB Hospital by his uncle, where he underwent treatment for the next 32 days.
Khan's right hand was amputated from below the elbow on February 25, 2020. Since his left hand was also seriously injured, the index finger, which had developed sepsis, was cut off 20 days later. He said he had undergone four major surgeries so far.
From earning Rs 20,000 per month, he was now dependent on others to meet his basic needs and required assistance to perform his daily ablutions.
Since he was permanently handicapped, he received Rs 500,000 from the Delhi government.
“Paanch lakh men zindagi nahin chalti (Rs 500,000 is not enough to spend an entire life). The government should have provided an opportunity for disabled people like me to earn a living with dignity," said Khan, who has elderly parents and a younger sister to look after.
He came from Bulandshahr in western Uttar Pradesh to Delhi six years ago, searching for a job. He remembers being the most admired employee on the floor of the denim factory he used to work with.
Nearly two years after the riots that broke out in the wake of the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), 2019, protests in the capital, victims such as Khan suffered immense personal damages feel abandoned by the state. Muslim and Hindu survivors that this correspondent spoke to complained of meagre compensations, and arduous paperwork struggles with what seemed like an uncaring bureaucracy.
"Cutting jeans without an arm and a finger was impossible," he said. "I used to think that I was not only been betrayed by fate, but by the state and society. But I was partially wrong. I am now quite excited to restart my life again."
His written complaint to the police did not lead to an FIR, alleged Khan. He claimed to know some of the attackers and named them while describing the sequence of events to the police.
"But they have not registered a case on my complaint," he said. "The FIR misrepresents facts of the case, and I have yet to receive a copy from the police," he added. With no hope of justice from the police, he has taken the matter to court.
After he partially recovered in March 2020, Khan sent a complaint to the police kiosk set up at a relief camp in Mustafabad for victims from areas under jurisdictions of Karawal Nagar, Gokalpuri and Dayalpur police stations.
The FIR registered by the police at the Shastri Park police station describes the incident as an "accident". Sections 279 (rash driving) and 337 (causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of the IPC have been invoked.
When questioned about the lapse, a Delhi police official said the Shastri Park police station received a call concerning an "accident" near Chand Bagh shrine. A policeman was sent to the GTB Hospital for inspection and recording the victim's statement.
"The victim was grievously injured and was not in a condition to give a statement. His MLC (medico-legal case) was accessed, which said 'crush injury,'" said the police official on condition of anonymity since he was not authorised to talk to the media. "And, therefore, the FIR of the accident was registered."
Responding to the victim's allegation of not receiving a copy of the FIR, the police officer said: "Access to FIR is a legal right of the victim, and no one can deny it. He has not approached anyone. He should have approached the DCP's office."
The Delhi Police have been accused of bias (here and here) in investigating the Delhi riots, which they denied. The majority of charge sheets filed thus far focus on those who protested the CAA, while the BJP's Mishra and other Hindu activists who allegedly engineered the violence have not been named so far.
Khan's lawyer Mahmood Pracha said not registering an FIR based on the victim's complaints when he is alive was a "criminal" act on the part of the police.
"With an aim to weaken the case and protect perpetrators, a case of communal violence has been registered as a case of a road accident," said Pracha. "It's a fraudulent FIR; and therefore, I have petitioned in the court to order a fresh FIR on the basis of the victim's complaint."
'COMPENSATION WAS A COSMETIC EFFORT'
Justice Vikramjit Sen, one of three former Supreme Court judges (the others were Justices Kurian Joseph and A K Patnaik) who had visited riot-affected localities on March 5, 2020, said the state and its forces had "totally failed" to secure the basic right to life of the people.
"We witnessed that the attacks were targeted," Justice Sen had told NewsClick. "We do not know who the rioters were, but they were trained and (were) professionals. Oxygen and LPG cylinders were used to set houses, shops and mosques on fire."
Sen said the government and the police had failed to rebuild confidence among the people.
"Having failed to protect lives and properties, the State is expected to pay proper compensation," said Justice Sen. "The 'compensation did not just mean monetary assistance but a realisation of guilt, resolve to put lives back on track and a loud and clear message that the State would pay back lost assets and rebuild destroyed houses."
But no such effort appeared to have been made, said Justice Sen. "The ex gratia payment is certainly inadequate," he said. "What has been given by the government is only cosmetic."
Citizens from both Hindu and Muslim communities co-habited in the northeast neighbourhood of the national capital until February 20, 2020, when several localities of the region witnessed one of the most violent riots the capital had ever seen.