Opinion: Was Dr. Payal Tadvi victim of a hate crime?

Written by Vidya Bhushan Rawat | Published on: May 28, 2019

All those who are insulting Dalits and Adivasis, humiliating them, compelling them to commit suicide, attacking them, their habitat and their land are criminals and should be dealt with under hate crime laws. The Savarna hate crime must be now on the top of the government agenda if it wants to win 'sabka vishwas', the trust of all.  


payal tadvi
 
In truly technical terms Dr. Payal Tadvi committed suicide on May 22, 2019, in her hostel room in Mumbai. But for all practical reasons, I would call it a murder, a crime which was not merely of racial hatred but also looked like Islamophobia as she belonged to a tribal community practising the Islamic faith. The 26 -year-old gynaecologist was pursuing her post-graduate course and would have become the first doctor from her community. It is so difficult for the Adivasis to come up when there is so much concealed hatred.
 
It is reported that Payal had complained to higher authorities about the continuous harassment by her Savarna colleagues and roommates namely Dr. Hema Ahuja, Dr. Bhakti Mehra and Dr. Anikta Khandelwal who were her seniors. They would not allow her to perform surgeries and were regularly harassing and humiliating her.
 
Payal had informed her mother Abeda Tadvi and father Salim who lived in Jalgaon and worked in the Zila Parishad office. She was a very hard-working girl, a brave one who graduated with an MBBS degree in Gynaecology from Miraj. A report in the Hindu, quoting her husband Dr. Salman Tadvi says, "When she came to Nair Hospital for her post-graduation, she was asked to temporarily share a room with Dr. Hema Ahuja and Dr. Bhakti Mehra. The two began harassing her soon after.” “The two doctors would go to the toilet and wipe their feet on her mattress and litter it. When she would be away, they would taunt her that she was spending time with her husband,” he said.
 
Her mother Abeda Tadvi is a cancer patient and has been listening to her daughter and standing by her side throughout. She said, “My daughter was extremely strong. But this constant abuse eventually broke her. The three accused should be punished so that it sets an example for others who traumatise and torture students like Payal.”
 
How do you define this treatment of Payal by her Savarna seniors? Is this pure hate crime?
 
All those who are insulting Dalits and Adivasis, humiliating them, compelling them to commit suicide, attacking them, their habitat and their land are criminals and should be dealt with under hate crime laws. The Savarna hate crime must be now on the top of the government agenda if it wants to win 'sabka vishwas', the trust of all.
 
The three Savarna doctors must be prosecuted with stringent laws so that this becomes an example but we know very well that the government and its officers have never been sincere in following the constitution and implementing the rule of law. Otherwise, Dr. Payal would not have died.
 
Where are the institutional mechanisms to protect SC/ST students? Her death is an institutional killing like that of Rohit Vemula and the BYL Nair Hospital, Mumbai cannot give up its accountability in this regard. Why are institutional mechanisms not strong to deal with the discrimination which is rampant in our educational institutions? Why was there no 'committee' which could have acted against these three girls? If there is a committee then what did it do? Who are the members of the committee? Are there SC/ST members in these committees? Can we trust those committees where no member belongs to these communities?
 
For clarification of many, unlike the scheduled castes, the tribes have got reservation irrespective of faiths. Payal belonged to the Bhil community which has about 2.7% of people practising Islam around Maharashtra. The total number of Bhils and Gonds in India is nearly 2.8 crore, which is 27% of the total Adivasi population in India. Among the Muslim Tribal communities, 1.32 lakhs live in Jammu and Kashmir and 1.12 lakh hail from Maharashtra where Bhils are the biggest tribal community, where Islam is one of the practising faiths.
 
Dr. Payal was killed by the three seniors who happened to be women. She became the victim of hate crime where her tribal identity practising Islamic faith might have further aggravated her troubles.
 
How can the racists hate-mongers allow a tribal Muslim doctor, full of confidence and equally meritorious, stand shoulder to shoulder with them? This is the crisis that the caste Hindus suffer.
 
First, they blame that the SC/ST don’t have merit and when people come and join them, they become so notorious that they create obstacles so that these students leave their courses mid-way and return home. Those who remain in the institutions are continuously harassed in the hope they will give up. Payal did not leave the hostel and decided to stay put. There is a limit to one’s patience. She was after all just 26-years-old with no one to help her or even console her. This is what girls from Dalit Adivasi communities face when they are in these Manuwadi institutions. The whole atmosphere in these so-called institutions of merit is so suffocating with Brahmanical arrogance that it kills the students from the Dalit Bahujan Communities.
 
With increasing Brahmanisation in these institutions, further obstacles are being created so that students don’t come up and leave. That is a strategy by the Savarna elite where the institutions and their caste owners are a party to hate crime. Will Maharashtra government act and get this case heard in a fast track court so that the hate criminals get the maximum punishment? Let the government develop a mechanism in all our colleges, universities, institutions as well as offices like women cell, develop special cell for SC/ST communities so that such murders are not repeated and India shows its commitment against caste and race-based prejudices which are the order of the day.
 
Our salute to Dr. Payal Tadvi. Her fighting spirit will remain alive and her death will always remind us of the grave nature of discrimination that exists in our minds and body against Dalits and Adivasis. We will remain the most barbaric, uncivilised and highly prejudiced society if India does not address this issue with honesty. With so many people being kept outside humanity’s reach and the denial of justice to them will never make us a great nation. Time to show real intent to fight against hate crimes against Dalits and Adivasis.