A case of alleged caste-based discrimination leading to suicide has emerged at India’s top medical established AIIMs. So much so National Commission of Women (NCW) have taken notice and sent a letter to the premier institute. This isn’t the first of such cases in India. We have had many young women doctors and students who have been driven to suicide due to alleged caste discrimination and most of these cases are yet in courts.One such story made headlines.

On May 22, 2019, a postgraduate student of gynaecology at the Topiwala National Medical College in Mumbai  died by suicide because she couldn’t take the alleged bullying and torture she was subjected to by her seniors. The 23-year-old woman was Payal Tadvi and in a suicide note she left behind, she accused three senior doctors of pushing her to take such an extreme step. It is going to be a year, but justice evades Tadvi, now even more with the coronavirus outbreak delaying the hearings. Besides, Tadvi is not alone. Other cases of suicide due to bullying and mental harassment have grabbed headlines in the recent past. 

On November 9th 2019, 19 year old Fathima Latheef, a first year topper student of IIT-Madras, committed suicide citing harassment by Prof. Sudarshan Padmanabhan in a note left behind on her cell phone

We need to ask ourselves, why do we continue to fail our doctors and students? Why is discrimination still so prevalent in our society? And why does justice take so long? Why is social status or caste still a reason for such incidents?

Payal Tadvi case

The Resident Doctors Association (RDA) of the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) wrote to to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday against alleged inaction by the administration on complaints of caste and gender-based harassment.

A dental surgeon at AIIMS, Delhi attempted suicide allegedly due to gender and caste-based harassment by senior faculty members. The woman doctor, who tried to kill herself on Friday, is in a critical condition in the hospital’s ICU currently.

“We would like to bring to your kind notice a serious event of caste and gender based discrimination of a Senior Resident of CDER, AIIMS. The Resident has made repeated appeals to the Department, the Director and also has been represented through RDA, AIIMS to the administration,” said the RDA’s letter, seeking the minister’s intervention in the matter.

“Despite multiple letters (on three different dates), there has been no adequate action to address this issue of grave concern and eventually, leading the Resident to the edge, making her take the drastic step to end her life after losing the hope of justice in this prestigious institute,” it said.

The letter said the doctor had also written to the Women’s Grievance Cell and SC-ST Welfare Cell of AIIMS as well as the National SC-ST Commission, but no appropriate action was taken.

“The reluctant behaviour of the administration and the institute committee led the resident to take such an extreme step of inflicting self-harm. Therefore, we appeal to the administration and the ministries concerned to expedite the process and address this injustice at the earliest. We look upon you for justice to prevail and to ensure that such actions do not happen again,” the letter added.

According to a senior resident doctor, she tried to kill herself by taking some pills but within hours, some of her colleagues found out about it and rushed her to the emergency department of the hospital. She is presently admitted to the hospital

Tadvi’s case grabbed more attention compared to the other cases because

  1. It was allegedly a caste-based discrimination – Tadvi belonged to the Muslim Bhil Tribal community of Maharashtra. This report and many others report that this was a caste-based discrimination that led to suicide
  2. It highlighted the issue of bullying and mental harassment by superiors

But now with the news of another doctor attempting suicide just last week, one wonders what is driving such caste base suicides in the country? Why is it not getting enough attention.

The AIIMS doctors is a woman and belonged to the SCST community. She had also written to the Women’s Grievance Cell and SC-ST Welfare Cell of AIIMS as well as the National SC-ST Commission.

Why is India’s deeprooted caste system raising its ugly head again and again?

Clearly, our deeply-rooted biases against caste, gender, classes etc continue to get the worse of our society even in 2020. As a country that prides itself on unity in diversity, we as citizens are failing our fellow country men and women. We ought to drive change in mindsets and have more detailed coverage on issues like these.

courtesy Shepeople