Payal Salman Tadvi, 26, was pursuing post-graduate studies in obstetrics and gynecology. Her harassers, three doctors, have been suspended. People should look upon each other as human beings, says CBCI’s Office for Dalits.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – A young Mumbai doctor took her own life because she could no longer take the insults of her colleagues, who denigrated her because of her tribal origins.
The victim, Payal Salman Tadvi, was 26 years old, and belonged to the Tadvi Bhil Adivasi, a listed disadvantaged community.
She worked at the state-run BYL Nair Hospital and was a second-year post-graduate student in obstetrics and gynecology.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Z Devasagayaraj, national secretary of the Office For Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), said: "We condemn the insults uttered in any place to denigrate the caste origins of people. “
“India needs to grow, to mature. I'm not just talking about economic growth, but above all social growth. It must learn to be truly inclusive, to respect others. If you don't look at others as human beings, you will only see them as a member of a caste, a Dalit, a Muslim or a tribal. This is a discrimination by birth.”
The doctor's suicide took place on 22 May. her desperate gesture opens an unprecedented window on caste discrimination even among the higher echelons of Indian society.
Caste divisions were formally abolished by the 1950 Constitution, but the discrimination of Dalits and tribal groups is still rooted in a caste mindset.
Once known as "untouchables", Dalits are given the humblest and the most degrading jobs, such as the manual collection of excrement.
According to government data, India’s disadvantaged communities number around 201 million out of a total population of 1.2 billion.
The victim's mother said her daughter had long suffered from the insults of other doctors, in particular three senior colleagues.
“Whenever she used to speak to me on phone, she would say that these three (senior doctors) people torture me as I belong to a tribal community, use casteist slurs,” she explained.
Dr Salman Tadvi, assistant medical professor at the R. N. Cooper Hospital in Mumbai, is the victim’s husband. They married in 2016.
His wife’s harassment began immediately after her arrival at the hospital. Her colleagues “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.”
The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) suspended the three accused: Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehar and Ankita Khandilwal. Yesterday some student organisations, including the Students Federation of India, organised a demonstration to demand justice.
"We are surprised that such discrimination occurred in a large city like Mumbai, the commercial capital of India,” said Fr Devasagayaraj. “Rising intolerance is not a good sign for the country."
For the Catholic leader, the "caste mindset is widespread both in cities and rural areas and is creating a new form of fundamentalist way of thinking, understood not only as religious intolerance, but also as a caste idea of hierarchy".
The positive thing "is that civil society has been stirred to condemn atrocities against human beings, including Dalits. What used to be a sporadic incident today has become the order of the day.
"People are losing hope, but we must not stop speaking out and expressing our condemnation. We must focus above all on education in schools. This is where we teach respect for others, conveying to children the value of equality "