Three and half years before, in May 2019, Payal Tadvi, the first gynecologist and first female student of Doctor of Medicine (MD) from Tadvi Bhil, a tribal Muslim community, took her life due to casteist harassment from her senior colleagues who belong to upper caste communities. The incident soon became a symbol of caste-based discrimination in higher education for Dalit and tribal students who continues to experience such harassment due to their social background. Last week, on 26 June, Payal Tadvi’s mother, Abeda Salim Tadvi addressed a “Medical Summitt 2022” organised by Medical Fraterns, a collective of Fraternity Movement in Kerala.
Here is the full transcript of the speech:
Respected guests of the occasion and doctors, medical students… First of all, I am very grateful to have been invited to the Medical Summit, 2022. When I was invited and asked whether I could attend the Medical summit 2022, my first thought was that I have never come this far and I don’t even know the language. But after looking at the title of “Medical Summit 2022” I decided to come, whoever is a student, medical student, or doctor I can see Payal in all of them, and when I meet all of them, I feel like I am meeting my Payal and I am with her.
My Payal was a second-year resident doctor at Noopur Hospital’s top college, Mumbai MD (Gynac) Department. She was always subjected to feel beneath others because of her caste, inappropriate behavior, insulted, again and again, being ragged. Till the end, the girls continued this behavior and forced her to take her life.
If you are studying for higher education/graduation and if you are bound by your casteist narrowmindedness then what is the point of studying at this high level. How many innocent students’ lives will the casteist and ill-intended society take.
What was Dr. Payal’s fault?
Dr. Payal raised her voice against injustice, who was bearing so much pain, and was getting insulted, she attempted to bring this to the administration but no one heard her, she was silenced and she was further harassed. One of the first reasons for this was that Payal belonged to the Adivasi community. Who would take her side? People intentionally did not pay heed to her words and our Payal was taken away from me, our world.
Payal was going to be the first woman M.D Doctor from the Adivasi community. We had many dreams for her that she will become a respected/big doctor. We would feel very proud. Our hopes and dreams were quashed by these casteists/bigots. Our life went dark because Payal’s elder brother who is handicapped by birth and due to other medical problems could never go for education, so we sent Payal for education. Payal also studied very hard and through her good grades graduated with MBBS from the medical college Miraj G. Sangli. Payal was a talented and smart child, when Payal passed the MD entrance, we were very happy, Payal was also very happy. But meanwhile, I got diagnosed with cancer. Payal instantly took the decision and got me operated and after that joined Nayar Hospital for MD. Can such a daughter take her own life?
From the day Payal left us, we died with her that day. There is no soul in our bodies. We are just surviving and even if we wish to die, we can’t. We are staying alive only for Payal, we have to fight to get her justice.
When I got cancer, I thought why did I get the disease, how did cancer attack my body, I was very scared and I used to cry a lot. But…Payal was slowly given a deadly dose of casteism which is even more dangerous than cancer and that’s what killed her. I am not afraid of cancer anymore. But I am even more scared of caste-based discrimination.
What circumstances are we suffering from? What have we gone through and despite that how are we living, only we know? I always pray that no other parent has to go through what I went through. And I request all the students, that if you face such circumstances then fight it with all your strength and we have a lot of organizations, NGOs, and media who you should approach. Don’t let bad thoughts cross your mind, you are a very special person to your parents, siblings, and the world, that’s my only request to everyone. In my fight for justice, I have the support of everyone here, the society, NGOs, and the media which is why I am standing here before you.
As a mother, I am sincerely pleading with you that please help me in any way possible to fight for getting justice for Payal, please boost my confidence to continue fighting.
Dr. Payal Tadvi’s case was discussed across the whole country. Many NGOs, colleges, universities, and medical associations protested in their respective states. This was also telecasted all over the media. Even after this, ragging and casteism has not stopped. This is a very sad state of affairs. Because of these reasons, a girl in Mumbai attempted suicide, another student from a medical college in Mumbai died by suicide, one medical student from Rajasthan died by suicide and there are many more such incidents that happen but we don’t know about them. That is why we have to stop this. There are attempts being made to stop us from fighting against such injustice.
What was Payal’s fault?
That she belongs to the Adivasi Community so she should not go ahead in life, that she shouldn’t pursue higher education. The aim for us and Payal to become a great doctor was never to get a big bungalow, car, or get other luxuries in life, on the other hand, Payal wanted to become a great doctor to help the homeless and poor patients. We were also very satisfied with this decision of hers.
Don’t we have the right to dream? We are still sad because of all these reasons. Now, if something like this happens to any other person in society, we hold ourselves guilty because we could not save them.
Therefore, I request all of you again that I need your mental support in order to keep fighting. I got this opportunity to speak from my heart in front of y’all. I hope you always remember Payal. I need all your prayers to get justice for Payal. I thank the organizers of this event from the bottom of my heart.
The speech was originally in Marathi and translated into English by Jasmin Purani.