Our Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has had an incredible victory this Lok Sabha election, said that there are only two castes in India now — the poor and those who will alleviate poverty. However, it is far from the truth right now. Discrimination on the basis of caste has been a menace to society for decades and it hasn’t been eradicated completely. Every day, numerous cases of caste-based crimes are highlighted in the media, but life goes on.
Recently, casteism was brought to light again when a 26-year-old doctor Payal Tadvi from the Adivasi community committed suicide after facing harassment and casteist slurs.
A post-graduate medical student, Payal Tadvi worked as a Gynaecologist at BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai. In the past one year of her joining the institute, she was constantly ragged by three of her senior colleagues – Ankita Khandelwal, Hema Ahuja and Bhakti Mehare, who would litter her room, harass her and use casteist slurs against her. Burdened by this, Payal talked to her parents, who wrote to the department about it in December 2018 and May 10, 2019, but no actions were taken.
On May 21, she was targeted on a work WhatsApp group and threatened that she wouldn’t be allowed to study or enter the operation theatre. On May 22, Payal committed suicide.
In a recent statement given to ANI, her husband Salman revealed, “She was picked on for being lower caste and was ragged quite a bit by her seniors. The seniors said they will not let her study. They used to humiliate her on WhatsApp too.”
When the news broke, Mumbai stood up for Payal and the city demanded justice for her. People have been protesting outside the hospital and members of the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi and other Dalit and tribal organisations are also taking part in the protest.
The three accused doctors were on a run since the incident, but they had written a letter to the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) saying, “We want the college to conduct a fair investigation to give justice. But this is not the way to do investigation through the police force and media pressure without listening to our side. Just because we don’t know the reason why suicide was committed, it is seriously an injustice to put the blame on us without any proper cause and levelling a charge of atrocity,” said the letter signed by the three doctors.”
They further added that heavy workload is being misconstrued as ragging and harassment, “You all are aware of the workload in residency and do you all really believe burdened with the workload is ragging? We all are doing residency and are going through all three years of residency which has different aspects… Then all of us should be blamed as all the workload and pressure is always transferred from our seniors (lecturer, AP, HOU, and HoD) and department.”
However, MARD has suspended the three doctors. A senior MARD official said the association will cooperate with the police in the investigation.
The three doctors have been arrested under the Atrocities Act, the Anti-Ragging Act and the IT Act and Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the IPC.
This is not the first time such a case has happened. In March 2010, an MBBS student, Bal Mukund Bharti, a Dalit from UP and a student of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, committed suicide following casteist slurs. Another AIIMS MBBS student, Anil Kumar Meena, committed suicide in March 2012 because he was harassed for being from a lower caste.
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