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An Adivasi’s tragedy-a reminder for India
In My View

An Adivasi’s tragedy-a reminder for India

P.C. Punnen

An Adivasi girl, Payal Thadavi, was killed or was her death a suicide? The Crime Branch police of Mumbai is investigating it.

On her body wounds were found, says the post mortem report. The Mumbai Nair Hospital appointed Anti- Ragging cell has found that she was constantly harassed by senior doctors of the hospital. There is no suicide note by Payal. Even if there was, it has not been found, says the cell. Obviously it's a case of murder, one should presume. Three of her senior doctors have been arrested.

What this indicates is that Payal was assaulted by doctors who couldn't stand an Adivasi doctor coming on par with them, one can presume.  Payal was subjected to brutal casteism.  A preliminary investigation says it was a suicide.

That raises the question of our concept of reservation guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The question is can it be justified for the simple reason that it is meant for the underdogs of our society.

Dr. Ambedkar, the father of our Constitution, who had a fight with Gandhi before our Independence is on record that the special provision guaranteed in the Constitution should be scrapped. It has remained as it was thanks to our politicians of all hues. Strictly speaking before capping it we as a nation should have had a debate on it. I have met people on the same page but people who are reluctant to say it openly. For example government jobs, schools, medical institutions, colleges have seats reserved for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. So far so good. But does it need a change or does it need a reduction?

These are matters of serious concern because one has seen people of the upper castes trying for a job and not getting it. Just as before Independence the Dalits and the other backward castes had no jobs, no education and no standing in our society. The exception was Ambedkar and a few others who got education thanks to the British and the Maharajas who had noble thoughts contrary, to the vast majority of the privileged.

Our private schools, colleges and medical institutions have only money in mind collectively speaking. All our private schools and colleges or medical institutions run by this private sector are no exception to this concept. That's the tragedy that is widespread.

There is a saying in Kerala which goes like this; in a 100 metre race reservation beneficiaries have to run only 10 metres!

Needless to say the nation has three controversial issues. One is that reservation should end fully, which is not proper considering the fact that scheduled castes and scheduled tribes are still way behind in education, jobs and money. The second is they should be reduced, and the third is they should continue till eternity.

In the 70 years we have shown progress especially the reservation beneficiaries. Kerala has shown a lead in that. But other states are far below Kerala's achievements and therefore reservation should continue. Payal Thadavi in Maharashtra died of this concept perhaps. She had critics in the same position who insisted on what was unbecoming of them. They insisted that her work was not properly done and was shoddy, so that they will not get pulled up by their bosses. That prejudice was hidden in their real antagonism against Payal.

She was found dead in her hostel room. The three accused doctors have been taken into custody by the police. There is an accusation that the three had taken the body to some other place before bringing it to the hospital and so it must be concluded that they tampered with evidence. Payal's advocate said in the court that she was murdered. The police sought 14 days custody of the accused.

The state SC ST Commission has taken suo moto notice. The Anti Ragging committee of the medical college has found that she was extremely harassed by hér upper caste colleagues.

In short, the case is in judicial court. There is no way of telling how it will view the matter or how the police will act. Till now the police have acted properly but there is a possibility of it mishandling the case at the last moment. That is what the police of Maharashtra are known for.

Payal has to be kept in memory by the nation. She achieved a doctor' degree in spite of being an Adivasi. That should go as an achievement for the Adivasis.

A lot of politicians may shed tears for the dead Adivasi without meaning or bothering about the caste ridden society that we have inherited. People will die unheard of and unlamented. But in Payal’s case things have changed. That is because of her post and because it happened in Mumbai. The media too took care highlighting it.

This is not the last word. More such incidents might occur in other states. Even in Kerala similar incidents have happened, but Keralites have taken it very seriously unlike their counterparts.

70 years ago a similar incident would not have found mention in the press. 70 years ago there would not have been any Dr.Payal too. Not that this kind of progress is what we require: Much has to be done to prevent such incidents. It happened in a metropolitan city like Mumbai. It is a blur to Mumbai's image and our education system. What sort of doctors are we producing? It needs serious thought…

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