All three doctors accused of abetting suicide of the Mumbai based doctor Payal Tadvi, have been arrested by the state police. Dr Bhakti Mehere was arrested on Tuesday afternoon, followed by the arrest of Dr Hema Ahuja later last evening. Dr Ankita Khandelwal was arrested earlier this morning.
On 22 May 26-year-old Payal Tadvi, a second-year MD in gynaecology at BYL Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central, hanged herself in the college hostel room hours after performing two surgeries. She had been allegedly driven to suicide by her seniors who reportedly used to humiliate her by making casteist remarks against her.
Dr Payal’s mother and other members of her family had accused three seniors of harassing her as she belonged to the scheduled tribe (ST). Payal belonged to the Tadvi Muslim Bhil Scheduled Tribe community. An FIR has been filed against them at the Agripada Police Station under the Atrocities Act, the Anti-Ragging Act and the IT Act and Section 306 (abetment to suicide) of the Indian Penal Code.
The three accused – Hema Ahuja, Bhakti Mehere and Ankita Khandelwal had been absconding ever since the FIR had been filed and the police had been trying to track them down.
Reportedly, the college has confirmed that she was targetted for her caste. In a report based on 30 statements from people in Payal’s family, colleagues and staff they have found evidence of harassment and casteist remarks made by the three seniors.
Payal was allegedly also harassed during her work and also was targetted in a work WhatsApp group. On May 21 she was allegedly not allowed to enter the hospital’s operation theatre after she was accused of neglecting her work. They accused her of negligence after having come across a picture of her dining out.
Payal’s mother Abeda had received constant complaints of harassment from her daughter ever since she had joined the college. She and her husband had met with the department head in December 2018 and was assured that action would be taken. Following a worrying phone call from her daughter she once again went to the college and had submitted a letter of complaint.
However, the dean Ramesh Namdeo Bharmal denied receiving any complaint from either her parents or from Payal. Bharmal said that the family withdrew the letter immediately. There was no reason for the dean to act if there was no written or verbal communication to the dean’s office. The dean cannot take any action without a complaint,” he said.
The NCW had issued a notice to the hospital, “It is a matter of serious concern. Considering the gravity of the matter, it is requested that the matter be investigated and Commission be apprised, about action taken in the matter at an early date”.
Meanwhile, the incident has stirred up protests in the city of Mumbai demanding justice for Payal Tadvi.
The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) has also suspended the three accused. The doctors have also written a letter to MARD asking for a fair investigation.