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Caste harassment charge in AIIMS

Associate professor accused of using casteist slurs
All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi

G.S. Mudur   |   New Delhi   |   Published 30.04.20, 11:41 PM

A lawyer has asked Delhi police to arrest faculty members at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, after a resident doctor who attempted suicide accused them of breaching laws that protect Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from harassment.

The senior resident in the AIIMS dental surgery department in a first information report (FIR) recorded by Delhi police has accused an associate professor of using casteist slurs against her and, on one occasion, asking her “not to cross his path like a black cat”.

The FIR also names the head of the department.

Advocate V.K. Ohri, representing the resident, has expressed concern that Delhi police authorities have not taken action although they should under the mandate of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, and its 1995 rules.

Ohri, in a letter sent to a senior Delhi police official, has said the police authorities are not acting according to procedure established under law considering the grave nature of the offence.

He said “it is imperative” that a person accused under provisions of this Act “is arrested without delay”.

“I was astonished to hear from you that this was solely the discretion of the police to make an arrest or not,” Ohri wrote, pointing out that the stand that police authorities had discretionary powers was “not in consonance” with mandatory and statutory dictates of the Supreme Court.

The complainant who had faced casteist remarks from the associate professor for several months had approached the AIIMS Resident Doctors Association with her concerns around one-and-a-half months back, RDA president Adarsh Pratap told The Telegraph.

“She had also earlier complained to the head of the department but had faced pressure to take her complaint back,” Pratap said. “Eventually, there was a departmental inquiry but she was obviously distressed by the outcome and took an overdose of pills.”

The complainant is now recovering in the AIIMS, doctors at the institute said.

The incident, sections of faculty and RDA members said, illustrates how some SC and ST students and residents continue to be exposed to caste discrimination at the AIIMS more than a decade after a three-member panel had documented such discrimination there in 2007.

“It is unfortunate, but the attitude of superiority and of looking down on certain castes persists even now,” said a faculty member.

A member of the RDA said: “It remains largely hidden, most people manage to go through with it.”

Two non-government health groups — the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and the Medico Friends Circle — had last year pointed out that Adivasis, Dalits and other marginalised communities are poorly represented in the medical community.

“Those who manage to overcome hurdles of institutional discrimination experience harassment and abuse by casteist medical fraternity and leadership in institutions,” the JSA and the MFC had said in May 2019 after a gynaecology resident at the Topiwala National Medical College, Mumbai, had committed suicide. She had earlier complained of discrimination and humiliation by her fellow doctors.

The 2007 investigation at the AIIMS had found that 80 per cent of students belonging to the SC or ST communities had reported experiences of social isolation or other discrimination in various forms.

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