The Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission has exonerated two former department heads at the BYL Nair Hospital, seven months after Dr Payal Tadvi – an Adivasi medical student – died by suicide after allegedly facing caste-based discrimination, The Indian Express reported on Monday.
Tadvi’s mother Abeda Salim Tadvi had accused Dr Yi Ching Ling, the head of the gynaecology and obstetrics department at the hospital, of not taking action against the accused despite being told about the problem several times. Yi claimed she was never informed about the harassment Tadvi faced. The other accused faculty head was Dr SD Shirodkar. While Ling was suspended, Shirodkar was transferred to Cooper Hospital after Payal Tadvi’s suicide.
The state rights commission said Payal Tadvi’s family had failed to provide “linking evidence”. The panel said the family could not produce documentary proof of written complaints to the two, and questioned why the family did not take any action despite knowing the situation Payal Tadvi was in.
Payal Tadvi’s husband Dr Salman Tadvi accused the state of making the family a scapegoat and shifting the blame on them. “We never gave a written complaint because we were continuously assured that our complaints will be heard and considered,” he said. “We all were worried that giving a written complaint would impact her [Dr Payal Tadvi’s] career and increase the wrath of the seniors who were ragging her.”
Abeda Tadvi told the panel that the family had met both the faculty heads, and alerted them of the situation. They were reportedly assured that action would be taken. “We never escalated the issue because we were told that it will be handled,” Dr Salman Tadvi said. “That’s why we didn’t go to the anti-ragging cell. The cell should have taken action before the ragging happened.”
The primary accused – Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Meher, and Ankita Khandelwal – were arrested days after Payal Tadvi killed herself on May 22. They have earlier denied the accusations and demanded a “fair inquiry”. In August, they were granted bail on strict conditions.
The following month, Abeda Tadvi and Radhika Vemula – the mother of Hyderabad Central University PhD scholar Rohith Vemula, who killed himself on January 17, 2016, after allegedly facing casteist discrimination – moved the Supreme Court, seeking to end caste discrimination in universities and other higher education institutions. They urged the court to issue guidelines to the higher education institutions on the matter, and pointed out the inadequacy of existing “equity regulations” notified by University Grants Commission in 2012 in addressing complaints of caste discrimination on campuses.