Right when India is reeling under the horrors of caste-based sexual violence in the Hathras gangrape case, another Caste-based issue is in the news – and this time, it follows the Supreme Court ruling which lets three women accused of harassing a Dalit women, allegedly driving the latter to suicide.
Dr Payal Tadvi was a student of post-graduate degree course in Gynaecology and Obstetrics at BYL Nair hospital in Mumbai. The 26-year old ended her life on May 22, 2019, after alleged humiliation by her senior colleagues because of caste-based harassment. A few days ago, the Supreme Court allowed the three accused to go back to the same hospital and complete their studies.
Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare, and Ankita Khandelwal - the trio accused of harassing Payal - returned to their colleges on October 12 with police protection. The move has angered activists, many believe that this judgement does not do justice to the victim and will embolden others who were already harassing the Dalits. ‘JusticeforDrPayal’ has been trending on Twitter after the apex court passed the judgement.
The Bombay High Court had granted bail to the trio in August 2019 on the condition that they do not enter the jurisdiction of the police station and the college. The apex court relaxed this condition when it passed last week’s judgement.
Dalit activist and politician Prakash Ambedkar has tweeted-
Allowing the 3 accused doctors in the institutional murder of Dr. Payal Tadvi to enter the college for carrying on their life as usual is a travesty of justice. The impunity and unaccountability of people accused of caste based violence is utterly shameful. #JusticeForDrPayal
— Prakash Ambedkar (@Prksh_Ambedkar) October 11, 2020
In a video, Dr Payal’s mother Abeda Tadvi says-” If there was any Ambedkarite professor in her college, she would have got the required help.” Payal’s mother has been said to make the 500 km trip to the Mumbai court for every hearing since the beginning. Abeda has filed a review petition against the apex court’s order of permitting the accused to resume their studies in the same college.
The three accused were arrested on May 29, 2019. They were charged with abetment to suicide under Section 306 of the Indian Penal Code and for offences under provisions of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 and the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act of 1999. They were granted bail by the Bombay high court two months after they were arrested, on August 7, 2019.
Payal Tadvi could have been the first doctor in her village, if she had not been made to believe that her life was not worth living because she came from a tribal community.