College Confirms Payal Tadvi Was Subjected to 'Extreme Harassment'

The anti-ragging committee found evidence of caste discrimination by three seniors, while Tadvi's family claims the harassment worsened after a verbal complaint was filed.

New Delhi: The anti-ragging committee of the TN Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai has found that Dr Payal Tadvi faced “extreme harassment” from three senior colleagues for several days before she took her life on May 22.

On the morning of May 22, she was admonished by the accused senior colleagues in the presence of other staff and patients. The second-year PG student was seen crying as she left. During the nine days between her husband filing a complaint with the gynaecology unit head of the college and her death, she faced “extreme harassment”, casteist remarks and was unfairly admonished several times. The seniors had come to know of the complaint, the report says.

The incident raises questions over the ability of the college to tackle ragging and discrimination, as the family claims that Payal Tadvi’s harassment worsened after a verbal complaint was filed with the unit head.

The report relies on statements of 30 people, including Payal’s family, colleagues and staff. It has corroborated the claim that the three seniors, Hema Ahuja, Ankita Khandelwal and Bhakti Mehare, harassed 26-year-old Tadvi, who belonged to a Tadvi Muslim Bhil Scheduled Tribe community. The three seniors were arrested as of Wednesday morning. They have been booked under relevant provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, the Anti-Ragging Act, the IT Act and Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the IPC.

Also Read: Even After Payal Tadvi’s Death, Doctors’ Body Unconvinced of Caste Discrimination

Tadvi’s husband Salman Tadvi filed a verbal complaint with the gynaecology unit head Y.I. Ching Ling on May 13. For the next two days, the three accused seniors did not speak with Payal Tadvi. On the third day, the family told Indian Express, one of them threw a file at her and called her work “shoddy”. On the fourth day, the seniors threatened Tadvi, saying they will ensure that she does not graduate to the third year, the family claims.

Her brother Ritesh Tadvi told the newspaper, “Payal told us that the torture got worse after the complaint. We realised that the three seniors had the unit head’s support.

In the last four days before she took her life, Payal was criticised at work every day. This was corroborated by two other colleagues, Snehal and Anurupa, to the anti-ragging committee.

Salman said that the three accused seniors ensured that his wife would perform only minor work. “First-year students who joined on May 1 were asked to assist in deliveries but Payal, despite being in the second year, was not allowed to work,” he told Indian Express.

He said that he did not mention the issue of caste discrimination in his verbal complaint as he was worried about the career of the seniors. Salman works as an associate professor with Dr R N Cooper Hospital.

“She cried every day. She said the complaint to the unit head yielded no response from the hospital. Instead, the torture increased every day,” said Abeda, Payal’s mother.

Casteist remarks directed at her included statements such as “these caste people don’t know anything” and that “she got admission through caste quota”, the family says.

Salman told the anti-ragging committee that Payal assisted in two deliveries on the day she took her life. She was apparently “scolded” the three seniors over her handling of procedures. She was crying as she left, and called her mother at around 4 pm. “I told her I’ll come from Jalgaon and bring her back with me. I could understand that she was being tortured. She was crying so much,” said Abeda. Payal is believed to have taken her life between 4:30 pm and 7:30 pm.

Payal told her husband Salmanthat the harassment began in December 2018, six months after she started her post-graduation at the BYL Nair Hospital. He told the Indian Express, “I kept telling her to ignore them and study. I was wrong. Why should we hear taunts over our caste? This is the worst kind of caste discrimination.”

Seniors remanded to police custody

A special court remanded the senior doctors – Bhakti Mehere, Hema Ahuja and Ankita Khandelwal – to police custody till May 31.

Additional sessions judge R.M. Sadrani remanded the three accused after accepting the prosecution’s arguments, seeking their custody for interrogation to ascertain if they misplaced or destroyed Tadvi’s purported suicide note.