3 lady doctors arrested for driving MD student to suicide with casteist slur

One arrested in Mumbai doctor suicide case
Left: Dr Bhakti, one of the accused in Dr Payel's suicide, Middle: Dr Payal Tadvi, the MD student who committed suicide, Right: Payel's mother Abeda Tadvi.

Mumbai: Mumbai Police arrested two more lady doctors, who were on the run after allegedly harrassing their room mate, a tribal MD student, with casteist slur driving her to suicide last week.

The tribal medico, Payal Tadvi, had ended her life on May 22 unable to bear the torture meted out to her by her upper caste room mates.

The accused -- Hema Ahuja and Ankita Khandelwal -- were nabbed early on Wednesday, Mumbai Police Spokesperson DCP Manjunath Shinge said.

Ahuja, Khandelwal and their colleague, Bhakti Meher -- who was arrested on Tuesday -- have been charged with casteist atrocities, mental harassment and professional torture leading to the suicide of second year Post-Graduate Gynaecology student Tadvi at the state-run BYL Nair Hospital here.

The accused trio, who were suspended by the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors and later by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation, had moved an anticipatory bail application, which would come up before the court later in the day.

Tadvi's mother, Abeda Tadvi who is leading an agitation seeking justice for her daughter, plans to challenge the pre-arrest bail plea, her lawyer Nitin Satpute said.

The Agripada police arrested Bhakti Meher after initial interrogation, an officer said.

The trio had 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 Indian Penal Code.

Forbidden 'operation theatre'

Tadvi hanged herself last Wednesday, following which the 26-year-old's family alleged that the senior doctors tortured her by hurling casteist abuses as she belonged to a Scheduled Tribe.

“The trio used to wipe their feet on Tadvi's bed cover. They would restrain her from entering the operation theatre and throw her things around. There were instances where Tadvi was not allowed to shower for four to five days. She was also victimised in Whatsapp groups. She had complained to the authorities several times but to no effect. She suffered a great deal during her time at the hospital.” Abeda Tadvi, mother of Payal, said in a petition to the Maharashta Chief Minister.

"Payal used to tell me about the torture she was going through. They threw files on her face in front of patients," she said.

"Payal used to tell me not to give a written complaint against her seniors despite being harassed by them. She would say that doing so would adversely impact their career," she added.

“When Tadvi dined outside with some friends, she had to bear the brunt of her seniors. The extreme harrassment drove her to suicide,” her father Dr Salman commented.

Protests mount

3 lady doctors arrested for driving MD student to suicide with casteist slur
The bereaved mother of Payal Salman Tadvi, stage a demonstration outside the Nair Hospital where Payal was a was a postgraduate student. Photo: IANS

Tadvi's parents protested at the state-run hospital in Mumbai where she worked. Other protesters also joined Tadvi's mother Abedam and husband Salman, demanding stringent action against the three seniors.

The Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi, and other Dalit and tribal organisations held protests outside the B Y L Nair Hospital.

Abeda asked whether the government would take responsibility for the safety of students like her daughter, who are pursuing higher education.

She said Tadvi would have been the first woman MD (doctor of medicine) from their community.

Salman, a doctor, said it was possible that Tadav was "murdered" by the three women doctors.

Expressing solidarity with the protesters and with Tadvis family, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad said he would visit Maharashtra if needed to "fight for justice for our younger sister".

The state women's commission has also taken cognisance of the matter and issued a notice to the hospital authorities.

On Tuesday, it wrote a letter to the Mumbai police commissioner, seeking a thorough investigation in the case.

The panel, which termed the case "very serious", has sought a report from the police within eight days, an official said.

It said there was a need to take stringent action against the accused under sections of abetment to suicide, the SC/ST Act and Anti-Ragging Act, the official said.

In a related development, the anti-ragging committee of Nair Hospital submitted its report in Tadvi's suicide case to the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences.

"We have submitted our sealed report to the MUHS," said Ramesh Bharmal, Dean, Nair Hospital, who did not reveal any details of the report, saying it was confidential.

"We are cooperating with the police in their investigation and providing whatever help they want," Bharmal told PTI.

In the morning, Minister for Medical Education Girish Mahajan visited the hospital and also met the protesters and parents of the victim, the official said.

The Mumbai Congress demanded that all the three doctors booked in the case be tried in a fast-track court.

A delegation led by of Mumbai Congress president Milind Deora met Joint CP (Law and Order) Vinay kumar Chaube and made the demand.

In a statement, the Mumbai Congress said Tadvi's suicide was unfortunate and a serious issue.

"The Tadvi family should get justice. The three doctors should be punished severely. A message should go out in Mumbai and Maharashtra that there is no place for casteism in educational institutions," it said.

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena spokesperson Neelam Gorhe said those accused of abetting Tadvi's suicide should be booked under IPC section 302 (murder).

She demanded that Mahajan take a review of all anti- ragging committees in education institutions in the state.

Gorhe said the issue would be raised in the state legislature session starting from June 17.

The three accused had on Monday sought a "fair probe" in the case.

In a letter to the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD), the accused said they wanted the college to conduct a fair investigation in the matter and "give justice" to them.

"This is not the way to do an investigation through police force and media pressure, without hearing our side," the three doctors said in the letter.

The MARD has suspended the three doctors.

"We have credible inputs that the three doctors made casteist remarks against Dr Payal Tadvi, who allegedly committed suicide. We will cooperate with the police for the further investigation," a senior MARD official said.

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