Payal Tadvi, Fathima, AIIMS Doc Suicides: When will they get Justice?
A case of alleged caste-based discrimination leading to suicide has emerged at India’s top medical established AIIMs. So much so National Commission of Women (NCW) have taken notice and sent a letter to the premier institute. This isn’t the first of such cases in India. We have had many young women doctors and students who have been driven to suicide due to alleged caste discrimination and most of these cases are yet in courts.
One such story made headlines. On May 22, 2019, a postgraduate student of gynaecology at the Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai committed suicide because she couldn’t take the alleged bullying and torture she was subjected to by her seniors. The 23-year-old woman was Payal Tadvi and in a suicide note she left behind, she accused three senior doctors of pushing her to take such an extreme step. It is going to be a year, but justice evades Tadvi, now even more with the coronavirus outbreak delaying the hearings. Besides, Tadvi is not alone. Other cases of suicide due to bullying and mental harassment have grabbed headlines in the recent past. We need to ask ourselves, why do we continue to fail our doctors and students? Why is discrimination still so prevalent in our society? And why does justice take so long? Why is social status or caste still a reason for such incidents?
In a recent case, a female dental surgeon working at All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) also attempted suicide on Friday reportedly due to alleged gender and caste-based harassment by her faculty members. The woman is now in a critical condition fighting for her life. Responding to this incident, the Resident Doctors Association (RDA) of the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) wrote to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday alleging inaction by the administration in the case.
“Despite multiple letters (on three different dates), there has been no adequate action to address this issue of grave concern and eventually, leading the Resident to the edge, making her take the drastic step to end her life after losing the hope of justice in this prestigious institute,” the letter said as per the India Today report. Meanwhile, the National Commission for Women took cognizance of the case and wrote to Preeti Sudan, Secretary, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare for an immediate inquiry and details of the action-taken report to be sent at earliest to the Commission.
In another incident in November last year just a few months after Tadvi’s suicide, a first-year student of MA, humanities and development studies (integrated) in IIT-Madras, Fathima Nafis also committed suicide. In a letter written by her father Abdul Latif to the CM of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan requested state intervention in the probe being conducted by Tamil Nadu police. To support his case, Latif attached an image of a screenshot from his daughter alleging that a professor was the reason of her death. Fathima was reportedly a class topper and her father claims that she had mentioned the accused professor to him earlier as well.
Tadvi’s case grabbed more attention compared to the other cases because
- It was allegedly a caste-based discrimination – Tadvi belonged to the Muslim Bhil Tribal community of Maharashtra. This report and many others report that this was a caste-based discrimination that led to suicide
- It highlighted the issue of bullying and mental harassment by superiors
But now with the news of another doctor attempting suicide just last week, one wonders what is driving such caste base suicides in the country? Why is it not getting enough attention.
The AIIMS doctors is a woman and belonged to the SCST community. She had also written to the Women’s Grievance Cell and SC-ST Welfare Cell of AIIMS as well as the National SC-ST Commission.
Why is India’s deeprooted caste system raising its ugly head again and again?
Clearly, our deeply-rooted biases against caste, gender, classes etc continue to get the worse of our society even in 2020. As a country that prides itself on unity in diversity, we as citizens are failing our fellow country men and women. We ought to drive change in mindsets and have more detailed coverage on issues like these.
Picture credit- Twitter/ Vishal Sonara