- Dr Payal Tadvi, a Mumbai-based gynaecologist at BYL Nair Hospital, committed suicide on May 22.
- Her family had accused three senior doctors for harassing her and using casteist slurs against her. The junior doctor belonged to a scheduled tribe and had joined the hospital on a reservation quota.
- The three accused have been arrested by police authorities.
Dubai: Three female doctors in Mumbai, India, have been arrested after they were accused of driving a junior doctor to suicide. They have been sent to police custody until May 31.
The victim, Dr Payal Tadvi, allegedly committed suicide after facing sustained harassment and abuse because of the caste she belonged to.
According to a news report by Indian news channel, India today, the Agripada police arrested Ankita Khandelwal, one of the three accused on Wednesday morning. Previously the police had arrested Hema Ahuja on Tuesday night and Bhakti Mehere on Tuesday afternoon. News agency ANI reported that the three were likely to be produced in court today.
Dr Payal Tadvi had committed suicide on May 22, and the case brought to light the issue of caste-based discrimination in India. Many Indian social media users campaigned to get justice for the doctor and her family using the hashtag #JusticeForDrPayal.
The suicide had created a furore online, after it was reported that the death was a result of caste-based harassment.
Twenty six-year-old Dr Tadvi was a second-year resident doctor at the BYL Nair Hospital located in Mumbai Central.
Her husband, Dr Salman Tadvi, was quoted in the Indian newspaper The Hindu: “When she came to Nair Hospital for her postgraduation, she was asked to temporarily share a room with Dr Hema Ahuja and Dr Bhakti Mehere. The two began harassing her soon.... The two doctors would go to the toilet and wipe their feet on her mattress and litter it. When she would be away, they would taunt her that she was spending time with her husband.”
According to Mumbai Mirror, the two doctors, along with another doctor, allegedly made fun of her caste and posted derogatory messages on a Whatsapp group. Tadvi had joined the college on a reservation quota.
Historically disadvantaged castes and tribes receive a quota for minimum representation in schools, universities and government jobs, as per the Indian Constitution. This is termed as ‘reservation’.
Her mother, Abeda Tadvi, had filed a written complaint to the head of the department in the hospital but she alleged that no steps were taken. Dr Tadvi committed suicide on May 22.
“Whenever she used to speak to me on the phone, she would say that these three people torture her as she belongs to a tribal community, use casteist slurs on her. We want justice for her,” Dr Tadvi’s mother told the news agency ANI.
She also told reporters that Payal was harassed over "petty issues" by the doctors who "threw files at her" in front of her patients.
According to a report in the Indian newspaper Mid-day, she said: “Had the authorities acted swiftly and shown sensitivity, my daughter would have been alive today.”
The report also stated that hours before she died, Dr Tadvi told her mother that she was unable to bear the torment from the three doctors, who have been absconding since they learned about her suicide.
The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors has cancelled the memberships of the three accused, according to news agency ANI. In their response, the accused urged the association to conduct a fair investigation, referring to their heavy workload in letter: “You all are aware of the workload in residency and do you all really believe burdened with the workload is ragging?”
According to a report by the Hindustan Times, the Agripada police have registered a case against the three accused under section 306 (abetment for suicide) of the Indian penal code (IPC), sections of the SC/ST Atrocities Act, Anti-Ragging Act and Information Technology Act, 2000.
What is an Adivasi?
Dr Payal Tadvi belonged to the Adivasi Tadvi Bhil community, a Scheduled Tribe - which is designated by the Indian Constitution as being historically disadvantaged.
She was also taunted for being an adivasi, which is the collective name used for the many indigenous peoples of India, according to Minority Rights Group International, a non-governmental organisation.
Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) are clearly identified in the Indian Constitution, and clause 2 of Article 15 ensures that people are not discriminated against on grounds of religion, caste, sex or place of birth. Various provisions within the Indian Constitution ensure that historically disadvantaged groups of people get the opportunity to be on a par with others.
Social media outcry
On social media, users were shocked by the incident and used #JusticeForPayal and #JusticeForDrPayal to raise awareness about the case as well as caste-based discrimination in Indian society. Over the past week, several protests have been organised using the two hashtags.
Tweep @RajeshK24914615 wrote: “#JusticeForDrPayal casteism is a reality in India. Even after 72 years of independence, dalits are struggling for their honour and proper representation in society. Stringent laws and more empowerment of dalits is needed rather than simply dumping the idea of reservation.”
Caste-based reservation is a big topic of debate in India politics, where many argue that India should do away with reservation based on a person’s caste.
Tweep @Tejaswi2406 wrote: “In my class of 70 students, there is no single Adivasi student. This is how reservation is implemented. And then you [say] … we have taken your seat. You [upper castes] have been over-represented illegitimately in these institutions. #JusticeForDrPayal #InstitutionalMurder”
Jignesh Mevani, @jigneshmevani80, a politician in Gujarat, shared the news report and wrote: “To everyone who says that caste does not exist in urban/modern India, Dr Payal, a medical student, committed suicide in our country’s financial capital after she was ragged & tortured for her tribal background. #JusticeForDrPayal #InstitutionalMurder”
Tweep @hmsankit added: “Racism took the life of a talented doctor like Payal. As well as demanding punishment for the guilty, there is a need to agitate at the level of the whole country to bring justice in all the cases of caste discrimination. #JusticeForDrPayal”