Supreme Court’s order allowing the three accused of abetting murder of Dr Payal Tadavi namely Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal to complete their medical studies is deeply disturbing and indicating a trend where violence against Dalits and Adivasis seems to be happening with impunity. Dr Payal Tadvai belonged to adivasi community and worked harder to reach the stage where her Savarna seniors behaved with her scornfully and tried everything to fail or dissuade her from further studies. Dr Payal Tadavi’s was institutionally murdered in her institutions where caste prejudices prevailed and like many other such murders the case seems to go nowhere. If the police worked under public pressure then the courts were seen as wanting and the result is that ‘court’ seems to be too much worried about the ‘career’ of the accused.
Our elite educational institutions have become the killing fields for the students of the marginalised communities. The atmosphere is absolutely prejudiced and no attempts are made to make it better and look equitable. It is here, we need to bring human rights, social inclusion and equity in the discourse but how will that happen when the very term human rights are being degraded and criminalised. How would you teach your students human rights when the noise outside and everywhere right from your home to society, human rights are being considered as a ‘threat’ or belonging to those who are ‘defaming’ India. It means whenever the caste questions come or a discrimination is highlighted, the notorious IT cells are ready with their counter ‘narrative’ of ‘defaming’ India and working against ‘social cohesion’. One wonders, what is social cohesion without representation, participation and inclusion.
We always believed that these social issues have not disappeared but we expected and rightly so that those who are sitting in our institutions, our media, our judiciary, executive and parliament, they have more sensitivities if not towards the marginalised but atleast to our constitution but this hope and expectations is now feeling betrayed.
This story of Payal Tadavi is not exceptional. In the month of August, a young doctor belonging to Dalit community, Yogita Gautam was brutally murdered by her senior in S N Medical College Agra Dr Vivek Tiwari and the person accepted killing her. Yogita’s family is seeking justice for her and informed that Vivek Tiwari used to pressurize her . Dr Yogita was 28 years old and serving the Covid Patient while Tiwari was from another place and claimed to be in a relationship with her. The family of Dr Yogita says she never loved him but he was forcing her and ultimately her no resulted in the brutal killing. So far, we have not seen any outrage in the case probably because the murderer is a brahmin and right now the media want to play brahmin as a victimised community. We dont know what happened in the case where the chargesheet has been filed or not.
A couple of days back, Dr Bhagwat Devegan, an OBC student in Jabalpur medical college committed suicide and his family blamed the Savarana seniors in mentally and physically torturing him but nothing happened to them so far.
The death of some of the doctors belonging to SC category in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences never saw the proper investigation. We all know it is the AIIMS where the anti reservation stir started when Union HRD Minister Arjun Singh had announced the reservation in higher education. We all know what happened in the Rohit Vemula case. The entire narrative was built in such a way as if he looked criminal. We dont know where is the case and what is the action taken report.
Most of the cases related to massacre of Dalits whether it is Chunduru, Karmchedu, Kumher, Shankar Bigaha, Lakshmanpur bathe, Khairlanji never saw any final verdict. Hence when the Hatharas case came into light, we are witnessing a counter narrative and attempt to make the victim family criminal. An Ambedkarite doctor Raj Kumari Bansal who came from Gwalior to Hatharas to express her solidarity and even supported financially, was made the scapegoat as a ‘Naxalite’.
How long will this happen ? We definitely do not deny that there is no discrimination other than caste. Ofcourse, there may be poor bramins or other Savarnas and might face some discrimination and we condemn those discriminations too. There is a discrimination against physically challenged people, discrimination against those suffering with psychological and mental disorders. We have discrimination against those with dark skin and we discriminate people with specific regions. We agree and we need to eliminate all forms of discrimination but can we deny that there is no caste discrimination in India or there is no untouchability. Is raising these issues make you anti national ? In fact, among all forms of discrimination, caste discrimination is affect the biggest population, the Bahujans of India and unfortunately percolate among the communities.
It is time our parliament, our political parties take this issue seriously. It is not one Hatharas here and the other somewhere else. Let us not suggest that this is happening in a particular state but it is also clearly visible how the state apparatus behave and try to hide the dirty realities and play the caste card and we shall deal that issue separately but at the moment, I can say, government of India, Union HRD Ministry, National Human Rights Commission and Union Home Ministry, SC and ST Commissions, Welfare Ministry, Ministry of Women and child Development, need to sit together and ensure that our campuses are free from caste prejudices and any form of untouchability. The action must be swift and stronger. If needed, bring a law to deal with this.
In the meanwhile, we request the Supreme Court to look at these issues comprehensively and not through one particular case angle, appoint a judicial commission which can submit its report in a stipulated time. The commission must have members from SC-ST-OBC communities to ensure that our Campuses become democratic both socially and politically. We can not allow deaths of our younger generation. It is the killing of dreams of millions. The order of the Supreme Court on Dr Payal Tadavi case must have a relook in the broader interest of making our campuses free from caste minds. If the accused get away without any exemplary punishment then others will continue to follow their path and destroy the young aspiring lives of people who come from the margins.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist. Twitter @freetohumanity