Skip to main content

India's elite educational institutions turning into 'killing fields' for marginalised students

Dr Payal Tadvi
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat*
The Supreme Court's order allowing the three accused of abetting the suicide of Dr Payal Tadvi – Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehare and Ankita Khandelwal – to complete their medical studies is deeply disturbing. It indicates a trend where violence against Dalits and Adivasis seems to be happening with impunity.
Payal belonged to the Adivasi community and worked hard to reach the stage where her dominant caste savarna seniors behaved with her scornfully and tried everything to fail or dissuade her from further studies. Payal's was an institutional murder, in which caste prejudices prevail. If the police worked under public pressure, courts were seen as wanting, and the result is that the court seems to be too much worried about the 'career' of the accused.
Our elite educational institutions have become the killing fields for students from marginalised communities. The atmosphere is so prejudiced that no attempts are made to make them better and feel equitable. There is little effort to bring them in line with the discourse on human rights, social inclusion and equity. In fact, the very term human rights is being degraded and criminalised.
How would you teach students human rights when the noise everywhere – right from your home to society – is that human rights upholders are a 'threat', that they are 'defaming' India. In fact, whenever caste issues are highlighted or discrimination is highlighted, some notorious IT cells are ready with their counter 'narrative' of 'defaming' India and working against 'social cohesion'.
Payal's story is no exception. In August this year, a young doctor belonging to the Dalit community, Dr Yogita Gautam, was brutally murdered by her senior in SN Medical College, Agra. Yogita's family is seeking justice for her and has named the senior for pressuring her. Yogita, 28, was serving Covid patients, while the senior is from another place and claimed to be in relationship with her.
Yogita's family says she never loved him, but he was forcing her, which ultimately resulted in her 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 wants to play the Brahmins as victims card. Nobody knows what has happened to the case, whether chargesheet has been filed and where.
Last week, Dr Bhagwat Devgan, an OBC student in the Jabalpur Medical College, committed suicide, and his family blamed his savarana seniors for mentally and physically torturing him. But nothing has happened to them so far.
The death of some of the doctors belonging to scheduled caste (SC) category in the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has not seen any proper investigation. It is AIIMS where the anti- reservation stir first took roots when the then Union human resource development minister, Arjun Singh, announced reservation in higher education.
All know what happened to the Rohit Vemula case. The entire narrative was built in such a way as if he was a criminal. Nobody knows about the status of the case.
In fact, most of the cases related to the massacre of Dalits – whether Chunduru, Karmchedu, Kumher, Shankar Bigaha, Lakshmanpur Bathe or at Khairlanji – never saw any final verdict. And when the Hathras case came into light, we witnessed an immediate counter-narrative and attempt to make the victim family criminal. An Ambedkarite, Se Raj Kumari Bansal, who came from Gwalior to Hathras to express her solidarity and even supported financially was made the scapegoat as a 'Naxalite'.
Supreme Court order in the Dr Payal Tadvi case must be reviewed in broader interests to make our campuses free from caste mindset
Not that other types of discrimination do not take place. There are poor Bramins or other savarnas who also suffer. Then there is discrimination against the physically challenged people, against those suffering from psychological and mental disorders, against those with dark skins, and against those who come from specific regions. There is a need to condemn all forms of discrimination.
But can one deny that there is no caste discrimination in India or there is no untouchability? By raising these issues do you become anti-national? In fact, compared to other forms of discrimination, caste discrimination affects a much bigger population.
It is time our Parliament and political parties take this issue seriously. It is not the case of one Hathras or that this type of discrimination is happening only in a particular State. In fact, one can see how the entire state apparatus behaves and tries to hide dirty realities and plays the caste card.
The Government of India, the Union HRD ministry, the National Human Rights Commission, the Union home ministry, the SC and ST Commissions, the Union ministry for women and child development – all 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 strong.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court should 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 frame. The commission must have members from SC-ST-OBC communities to ensure that our campuses become democratic both socially and politically.
One cannot allow the death of the younger generation to go on like this. It is the killing of dreams of millions. The order of the Supreme Court in the Dr Payal Tadvi case must be reviewed in broader interests to make our campuses free from the caste mindset.
If the accused get away without any exemplary punishment, others will continue to follow their path and destroy young aspiring lives of those coming from the margins.
---
*Human rights defender

Comments

TRENDING

'These people shouldn't be in jail': UN official seeks release of 16 human rights defenders

By Our Representative A United Nations human rights official has called upon the Government of India (GoI) to “immediately release" 16 human rights defenders who have been imprisoned on charges of terrorism in the Bhima-Koregaon Case, insisting, “These people should not be in jail. They are our modern-day heroes and we should all be looking to them and supporting them and demanding their release.”  

Arrest of Fr Stan Swamy: UN makes public letter seeking explanation from Govt of India

Counterview Desk In a letter to the Government of India (GoI), three senior United Nations (UN) officials – Elina Steinerte, vice-chair of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mary Lawlor, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and Fernand de Varennes, special rapporteur on minority issues – have said that the arrest of veteran activist Father Stan Swamy in October 2020 marks “the escalation of harassment the human rights defender has been subjected to since 2018.”

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Farm laws 'precursor' to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

By Rajiv Shah Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Differing from Ambedkar, Kancha Ilaiah holds a 'different' theory of caste system

By Banavath Aravind* I was introduced to Kancha Ilaiah’s work when I was about 20 years old. He was then in the midst of a controversy for a chapter in his book "Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution", which termed the Baniya community as social smugglers. During many of his debates, I had come to notice his undeterred fighting spirit in trying to bring up certain fundamental social issues that were hitherto undiscussed. I eventually came across some of his works and started reading them silently. I’m deliberately stressing upon the word ‘silently’ here, as this was the kind of silence particularly associated with sensitive social issues like caste, religion, etc. But, as I write this essay, I feel silences on sensitive issues should be broken. Ilaiah opened up an entirely new debate that had the vigour and strength to counter the systemic Brahmanism. His methods of research were also novel in terms of going back to the roo

Fr Stan's arrest figures in UK Parliament: Govt says, Indian authorities were 'alerted'

London protest for release of Stan Swamy  By Rajiv Shah Will Father Stan Swamy’s arrest, especially the fact that he is a Christian and a priest, turn out to be major international embarrassment for the Government of India? It may well happen, if a recent debate on a resolution titled “India: Persecution of Minority Groups” in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament is any indication. While Jesuits have protested Fr Stan's arrest in UK and US, the resolution, adopted in the Parliament, said, “This House has considered the matter of persecution of Muslims, Christians and minority groups in India”.

New trend? Riots 'expanded' to new rural areas post-2002 Gujarat carnage: Report

A VHP poster declaring a Gujarat village part of Hindu Rashtra  By Rajiv Shah  Buniyaad, a Gujarat-based civil society organization, engaged in monitoring of communal violence in the state, in a new report, “Peaceful Gujarat: An Illusion or Truth?” has said that a “new trend” has come about in communal violence in the state, where the parts of Gujarat which didn't see communal riots in 2002 are experiencing “regular bouts” of communal violence.

More than 5,200 Gujarat schools to be closed down, merged, says govt document

RTE Forum, Gujarat, releasing fact-sheet on education By Our Representative A Gujarat government document has revealed that it is planning to close down 5,223 schools in the name of school merger. The document, dated July 20, 201 was released by the Right to Education (RTE) Forum, Gujarat. It shows that the worst-affected districts because of this merger are those which are populated by marginalized communities – especially tribals, Dalits and minorities, said RTE Forum’s Gujarat convener Mujahid Nafees.

Consumption pattern, not economic shock behind 'poor' child health indicators

By Neeraj Kumar, Arup Mitra* The findings of the latest round of National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) conducted in 2019-20 covering 22 States/UTs under Phase-I  present a somewhat disappointing picture of children’s health in India. Majority of the experts, based on prima facie evidence, just highlighted the deteriorating sign of child health in terms of increase in proportion of stunted and underweight children in most of the phase-I states/UTs over last two rounds of NFHS (2015-16 to 2019-20).