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AIIMS group likens Payal Tadvi’s death to Rohith Vemula, says casteism ‘more invisible now’

An AIIMS social justice group holds talk to address caste discrimination across institutes, but own faculty says ‘it’s not overt, most has subsided’.

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New Delhi: An AIIMS group for social justice that met to condole the suicide of tribal student Dr Payal Tadvi in Mumbai likened it to Rohith Vemula’s “institutional murder”, and said caste discrimination is still routine but subtle in India’s premier medical college in the national capital.

The comments came after AIIMS’s Front for Social Consciousness held a discussion Friday to address caste discrimination across Indian educational institutions, in the aftermath of Tadvi’s death. She committed suicide on 22 May after being allegedly subjected to casteist slurs by her peers while she was completing residency in gynaecology from BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai.

“Originally we wanted to hold the meeting on 13 May, but the administration opposed it. They didn’t give us permission and imposed restrictions. For example, they said if we wanted to put out a press release we would first have to seek permission from the director’s office,” said Dr Harjit Singh Bhatti, a senior resident at AIIMS and member of the Forum for Social Consciousness.

Permission to hold the talk at the institute came only after news of Tadvi’s death became widespread.

Much like Rohith Vemula’s death in Hyderabad in 2015, Tadvi’s suicide is also being called an “institutional murder” for laying bare the systemic nature of casteism and discrimination in education institutes, which can ultimately lead to suicide. Tadvi’s family claims authorities were well aware of her state of distress, but still took no protective measures to ensure her safety.

The Mumbai incident comes 12 years after AIIMS became the first higher education institution where systemic caste discrimination and abuse was investigated. After a spate of complaints, the Manmohan Singh government ordered an independent probe into the matter, resulting in the Thorat Committee report. It found, at the time, that 72 per cent of SC/ST students felt discriminated against during teaching sessions.

Since the 2007 report, doctors at AIIMS — both from the social justice group and the faculty — admit that casteism on campus is “a fact”, but that it is more “invisible now”.

“Discrimination is still happening — there is definitely a sense of social exclusion and bias,” said Dr H.L. Nag, senior sports doctor and member of the erstwhile Forum for Rights and Equality at AIIMS.

“But it is not overt. Most has subsided. It would be difficult to furnish proof of it,” he said.


Also read: Dr Payal Tadvi was hardworking, loved dancing and was hooked to ‘Game of Thrones’


English remains a point of intimidation

Levels of English are still a point of anxiety for students from backward classes and castes, faculty members told ThePrint.

“In the classroom set up, it is the first place where difference can be detected. So students don’t come out and voice their difficulties. They are afraid of what the consequences might be,” said Dr. L.R. Murmu, doctor of surgery.

“Teachers can also make the mistake of treating all students in class the same way, and don’t adjust to accommodate the needs of students who need the extra help. There is a lack of communication between the two.”

The Thorat committee in its report recommended an English programme to be set up to help reserved students better navigate through English language classes.

While this has been set up, residents don’t have access to it, said Murmu.

Thorat report and history of caste violence at AIIMS

The Thorat Committee’s findings revealed that about 69 per cent of SC/ST students at AIIMS felt they did not receive adequate support from teachers, and about 76 per cent of students mentioned that their papers were not examined properly.

Students reported discrimination in living spaces, the mess, and in the selection of class representative in overwhelming numbers — 88 per cent, 76 per cent, and 76 per cent, respectively.

At the time, AIIMS simultaneously became the bedrock of the country’s anti-reservation agitation. The report found “sufficient evidence to support the view the administration of the AIIMS headed by the Director Dr. Venugopal played a proactive role” in the agitation, referring to the institute’s then chief.

“Even though ragging is officially banned in the AIIMS, there appears to be is a one month period of unofficial ragging. Students of SC/ST category have stated that ragging has serious caste overtones and several forms of humiliation are meted out to them,” read the report.

“The unofficial ragging still happens,” Nag told ThePrint.

A follow-up report on caste based violence and harassment hasn’t been implemented in AIIMS, even though 2 SC/ST students committed suicide since it was published.

In 2010, Balmukund Bharti, a final year MBBS Dalit student, hanged himself allegedly due to caste discrimination and inability to cope with English language studies. Two years later, in 2012, tribal student Anil Kumar Meena killed himself in a similar manner.

“Since the report came out, some recommendations have been paid heed. There is an orientation programme to sensitise teachers and students. A grievance cell has also been set up,” said Dr Murmu.

Dr P.K. Rathore, member of Delhi’s SC/ST Medical Association, said, “Things have definitely improved overall for students from marginalised communities, and that also needs to be said. Most have been co-opted, and discriminating outwardly is not so common any more.”


Also read: Less than 20% with foreign MBBS degrees eligible to work as doctors in India


‘Still widespread’

While things at AIIMS might have improved, professor S.K. Thorat, who chaired the 2007 panel, said a lot more can be done.

“We don’t have a law against discrimination for education institutions, only an anti-ragging law. Discrimination against SC/STs in educational institutions must be tackled at this legal level, and also through education.

“In the UK, there is a mandatory subject called Citizenship Education which addresses social problems. India’s higher education institutions must teach a similar civic education course,” he told ThePrint.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. The question of a Questionaire To The PRINT writer is :
    {A slmple question to the to the writer — Would trust your life in the a DOCTIR who passed outof med college through a reservation category}
    And this is the Answer to the Questionaire ,for that question specifically …
    IT IS A PREDATOR’S Mind Set ; TOO PREMIlTIVE, PRIMORDIAL ATTITUDE . SCZHEOPHERNIC opinions OR the Thoughts of, Attitudes of Ailling Social
    illgrowing mindlessnesss, that’s A “SPRUT – OUT” of an Age Long “Chronic Mental Dieses” . AND Skills, Expertes are coming via Castes or Family track that’s totally untrue phenomenon Falsely conceptual ideas “What You Are ???” – it’s an unique & Individual gist defined and predetermined pre established by NATURE wellcrafted by NATURE not by other way around [CASTE or it’s own age long stagnated mental attitudes… 99-100 % graded so Called “EXPERTS” and the So Called Faulty traditional royals can CAN Kill you /killed you already … when you are helpessly laying down@ Surgical table

  2. Now ugly caste politics is being played by the affluent Dalits, Communists and crypto Christians on this unfortunate death. Whenever something happens to a Dalit or tribal or a Muslim, it is a national news. Others are treated as sub human beings. Even now authorities and police are under tremendous pressure. So there is every possibility of innocent people being harassed in the name of given justice to the deceased. SC and ST Act is another form of Islamic blasphemy Act. Let the police and the authorities do their work honestly and freely.

  3. Reservation is not a grant, it is their right of native people or son of the soil. Some invaders have captured their lands, they are being oppressed by turning them labourers since hundreds of years and then want their intelligence ? Really deplorable. Still some of backward caste students are coming at top. Gradually sc/st will also compete. Merit seeking persons can see who are in private institutions of India ?

  4. Payal and Rohith cannot be compared. She was a contributing members of the society, while he was on a never ending government funded journey called a JNU Phd.
    Please check your parameters of comparison.

  5. There should not be reservation in any institution
    To remove descreminnation give equal education equal facility to grow from very beginning
    In present time by reservation only creating another antireservation group which is more fatal for society
    Now a days no descreminnation but this is bhadas against reservation

  6. Upper caste people are more ready to give up there surname but if you ask the same to a Daily, all SC ST dependent parties will jump saying reservation is in danger. We want the cage system to go and also caste based reservations. Don’t expect that society will change otherwise.

  7. Reservations should be based on merit cum means ( economic conditions) caste system and religion cretria no more valid as most of castes do not exist or practice. Still politicians kept alive them on record for vote bank or reservation. All parties leaders going to temples, masjid, Gurudwara and churches before elections. But afterwards they stick to their castes. Education institutions have become now the places of political grooming . The government should handle these matters carefully.

  8. There should be a law safegaurding life and interest of every student pursuing higher education.
    Adequate representation ,should be illustrated to every citizen of this country via efficient electoral practise ,being timebound will someday itself inculcate as proportional representation.
    Person/agencies chronically underminig constitutional adherant reservation policies until then 10% pops up and adovating n glorifying it should be sober and let all concede equal exposure to all resources of this country.

  9. Dr. Payals case came to limelight because she passed away. Numerous such instances are daily practice Vin institution like Aiims, New Delhi. Even some Professor leave no stone unturned to harass students. But they go unnoticed because they are politically connected and escape with minimal punishment. Remember the 2018 suicide case of Aiims.

  10. It is the media which gives castesit colour to incidences.
    This mind set of media and liberal politicians have destroyed the growth of nation

  11. Caste identity is an essentialized part of religious identity. Both co-exist, complete and strengthen each other. Vaishyas and shudras people have internalized their oppression and inferiority. Their crusade is more internal than external. Sense of equality can prevail only in the absence of caste and religion.

  12. Left leaning journals such as The Print and The Wire forget the essence of Marxism which is a Classless Society. Reservations should be abolished first before advocating sensitivity towards lower castes. Most of these writers do not realize that it is Reservation that is fomenting this deep sense of Class Alienation in the minds of those who had to work hard to get seats in institutions. Compare them to the ‘reserved’ folks who get in at 35 percent and dont even understand basic English.

    A simple question to the writer – Would you trust your life in the hands of a Doctor who passed out of med college through a reserved category?

    • All students pass same examination and many times despite UC examiners. It is pity that even so-called meritorious students don’t understand the Genesis of the problem in the form of more than 3 thousands of years of suppression of the LC by UC and almost 100 percent reservation for some UC. The LC were prevented from learning at the pain of violence and death. The UC claim their nasty superiority by virtue of a remembered text which has no mandate authenticity or acceptance. It is by sheer violent hegemony of the UC that this monumental destruction of human dignity and equality. It amazes me that even in this age there are educated Hindus who say they are proud to be superior to their fellow citizens by chance of birth alone. And look down upon for the same reason. What will happen if this struggle turns violent??

    • IT IS A PREDATOR’S Mind Set ; SCZHEOPHERNIC opinions OR the Thoughts of, Attitudes of Ailling Social mindedness, A “SPRUT – OUT” of an Age Long “Chronic Mental Dieses” . AND Skills Expertes are coming via Castes or Family track it’s an unique & Individual not by other way around … 99-100 % graded so Called ” EXPERTS” So Called Faulty traditional royals can CAN Kill you

  13. Let us usher in an era of casteless society,caste based reservations will vanish automatically.Dalits often face social stigma especially in UP, Bihar.Even top level officers from Dalit community try to hide their caste identy ,whereas peon from upper caste feels proud in his class.Time has come revisit these issues on broader lines.

  14. I feel reservation based discrimination…Is only 20-30 percent. ..But discrimination is mainly due to caste thakur,brahmin students. Feel proud they openly feel proud in front of everybody…They make groups..Ultimately. Sc students are left off…When mughal have not attacked…Then there was discrimination at its peak…But there was no reservation..Today reservation but less discrimination …So reservation not the criteria…Only people caste maintality…..From now on. Remove all surname from 10,12 marksheet…..Eventually no further surname use…So discrimination stops…Also reservation stops….

  15. Let we usher in an era of casteless society ,automatically caste based reservations will come to an end.Dalit often face social stigma especially in UP,Bihar.It is matter of social equality not financial equality.Even top level officers from dalit community try to hide their caste nd a commoner peon from upper caste shows pride in his class.

  16. It is all “felt”. No hard evidence. The funniest part is about lack of English knowledge. The English knowledge has to be acquired through effort. Nobody becomes proficient in English because they are so-called Upper Caste. Some report suggest that only 10% of Indians speak English, of that how many are proficient is unknown. This is all fanciful invention to demonise other Hindu students who are there to study.

    Take one complaint “UC students play cricket” Is that a complaint? Another bogus complaint is that “GC” students don’t teach the “RC” as if it is their job. The Thorat Committee whose fanciful conclusions was long debunked recommended “remedial classes” to SC/ST/OBC, while another caste group ridiculed it claiming that such a step amounts to demeaning the SC/ST. Basically it is an attitude of endless complaining. If you do something, it is wrong. If nothing is done, then also it is wrong.

    BTW, Rohith Vemula was not a “dalit”. Careful investigation by state department has disproved the claim and his own uncle has so admitted. Please read the Roopanwal Commission report and report of District-Level Scrutiny Committee.

    Over the years numerous students of the GC have also committed suicide. Should they blame the rest? Why is the entire media silent on this issue?

  17. What about you enjoikg caste reservation for3 thosad years Now your belly is full still you want to share from the plate of hungry The10p.c reservation is step towards that.Thejats ,maratha and Patel demanding reservation is on caste.If caste is the base then give on that basis only according to proportion of the caste in total population.jiski jitni bhagidari utni uski hissedari .problem will be solved for ever because the caste is not to leave India 3thousand years more That’s why the p.m.has to mention his nich jati repeatedly.

    • There are more than three thousand castes and over a thousand tribes. The scheduled caste list itself contains more than 1100 castes. Can anything be distributed on that basis? Please read the constitution. Nowhere does it talk of proportional representation. It merely talks of “adequate representation”, without defining what “adequate” is.

  18. Caste discrimination is alive because of reservations based on caste.Hence,reservations based on caste,religion should be abolished.and reservations if any should be based on economic criterion

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