Two health networks on Tuesday demanded justice for Dr Payal Tadvi, a medical doctor from an Adivasi community who committed suicide on May 22 due to alleged casteist abuse at a hospital in Mumbai. In a statement, the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Medico Friend Circle termed the suicide “institutional murder”.

“We, members of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Medico Friend Circle–national level networks working on public health strongly condemn the institutional murder of Dr Payal Tadvi, a young medical doctor from an adivasi community who broke through barriers of social discrimination to become the first doctor in her family and the first woman from her community to pursue post-graduation,” the statement read. “We demand urgent action against the caste oppression, humiliation by upper caste senior doctors, which forced Dr Payal to suicide.”

The statement said that three doctors began to harass Tadvi when she joined Topiwala National Medical College for pursuing post-graduation in gynaecology on May 1, 2018. “They continued to discriminate and threaten her, disallowed her to perform operations or conduct deliveries,” the statement read. It said that despite multiple complaints to authorities by Tadvi and her parents, no action was taken. The student committed suicide at Nair hospital, which is attached to the Topiwala National Medical College.

The health networks said that though the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors has suspended the three accused, it has not “acknowledged the gravity of the situation that led to her death, by ignoring any mention of discrimination or caste in their press release”. It alleged that the press release has tried to highlight the death as a consequence of ragging.

“Anil Kumar Meena, Rohith Vemula, Payal Tadvi are probably only some of the institutional murders due to casteism that are widely known,” the statement read. It said that there is evidence to show that several Dalit and Adivasi students have been forced to drop out of higher education due to discrimination and abuse.

“Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims, and other marginalised communities continue to be poorly represented in the medical community, like in all other professional communities due to sustained discrimination,” the health networks said. “Those who manage to overcome the hurdles of institutional discrimination, are forced to experience harassment and abuse.”

They demanded speedy justice for Tadvi. They also said that a large-scale public investigation should be conducted in various medical colleges and health institutions to examine the persistence of caste-based oppression. “The findings from the inquiry should form the basis for reorientation and sensitisation of health institutions, medical professionals at all levels, along with guiding the development of effective complaint and redressal systems,” they added.

The case

The three accused – Dr Hema Ahuja, Dr Bhakti Mehere, and Dr Ankita Khandelwal – have been absconding since the incident, IANS reported on Monday. However, they have written to the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors demanding a “fair inquiry”.

“Based on the findings of our preliminary inquiry, we have suspended them,” association’s General Secretary Dr Deepak Mundhe said. “Now, they have written to us seeking our help in this case. In view of the seriousness of matter, we shall now sensitise the reservations category students both in the junior and senior levels on such issues.”

Meanwhile, an anti-ragging committee has interrogated nearly 30 people, including resident doctors, professors, nurses, and other staff of BYL Nair Hospital and the medical college which is attached to it, The Hindu reported on Tuesday. However, the panel has been unable to interrogate the three accused as they are missing.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has suspended the licences of four doctors – Head of Gynaecology Department Dr Yi Ching Ling, and the three accused resident doctors, DNA reported on Tuesday.