Mumbai: In a reminder of the Payal Tadvi suicide case of 2019 — following alleged casteist abuse — another medical student in Mumbai has made a complaint of being subjected to caste-based harassment by his fellow students.
But two weeks after Sugat Padghan — a 24 year-old student from the Scheduled Castes, studying in Mumbai’s Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)-run King Edward Memorial Hospital (KEMH) — filed an FIR, police are yet to make any arrests in the case.
The FIR mentions 17 fellow students and staff at the hospital, who are accused of either harassing Padghan directly, or supporting the act and refusing to acknowledge the harassment.
According to the FIR, of which ThePrint has a copy, the 17 have been accused under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1999, and sections 504 (intentionally insults, and thereby gives provocation to any person) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
“The punchnama has been made, but as far as I know, no other action has been taken yet,” Padghan, a third-year postgraduation student at the hospital’s Occupational Therapy School and Centre, told ThePrint.
Police have confirmed that no arrests have been made in the case so far, but refused further comment. ThePrint reached Sangita Patil, assistant commissioner of police, Bhoiwada division, Mumbai Police, who is handling the case, over phone, but she refused to divulge any details. “The investigation is on. Further course of action will be decided based on the findings of the probe,” Patil told ThePrint.
ThePrint also reached Sangeeta Ravat, Dean KEMH, over phone for comment, but she refused, saying the case was subjudice. Text messages to Dr Ramesh Bharmal, director of the civic body-run hospitals in the city, went unanswered.
Two of the accused were reached by phone but they refused to comment.
‘Threatened, abused, made to bear casteist slurs’
In 2019, Payal Tadvi, a postgraduation student of gynaecology at BYL Nair hospital, another BMC-run hospital in Mumbai, died by suicide in her hostel room. Following her death, Tadvi’s family accused her seniors of harassment and caste discrimination. The 26-year-old had been from the Scheduled Tribes.
Tadvi’s family had alleged that despite repeated verbal and written complaints, the college administration did not do anything. The case is currently being heard at the Bombay High Court.
Padghan, originally from Maharashtra’s Hingoli district, came to Mumbai in September 2018 to pursue his medical studies, and claims that harassment by his fellow students started soon after, in December. The accused would allegedly make him clean utensils, wash their clothes and sweep the floors of the college premises and the hostel.
The FIR also mentions that Padghan was asked to fetch groceries and other things for the accused and was made the target of casteist slurs if the work was not done. “You belong to a Scheduled Caste community, why have you come here to learn?” the FIR mentions the accused as saying.
“I was threatened, abused, called casteist slurs by three fellow students,” Padghan told ThePrint. “At times, they even said that if I talk loudly they will throw me from the 8th floor of the hostel building,” he added.
Following constant fights and fearing for his safety, Padghan said he returned to his village in January 2019, and did not return for nearly two months. After coming back, he informed the class in-charge and later, in April, complained to the anti-ragging committee of the institute. This was followed by a complaint to the institute’s dean the same month, he claimed.
But Padghan claims in the FIR that, far from helping him, the committee told him nobody had ragged him and that he should not complaint again, unless he wanted to be expelled from the institute.
“The college did not let me sit for the 2019-2020 exam citing insufficient attendance,” alleged Padghan, adding, “I pleaded with the college that the reason I didn’t have enough attendance was because of ragging and harassment, but nobody listened.” The 24-year-old claimed he lost an academic year because of this.
On 17 December 2021, Padghan said he approached the police to register an FIR, but alleged his complaint was not immediately registered.
Padghan said he then approached some social workers, who took him to the Maharashtra SC-ST Commission on 23 December 2021. Following a hearing by the commission on 30 December, the president of the commission, J.M. Abhyankar, said they directed the police to register an FIR in the case and the college to initiate an inquiry in the matter.
According to Abhyankar, 30 per cent of complaints received by them relate to discrimination or the use of casteist slurs.
“It is one thing for an incident to happen and another for a complaint to get registered. Many people, especially the rural population, are not aware of this and don’t come forward for complaining,” he said.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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Source: The Print