Two days after a 31-year-old Dalit who worked as a clerk in an Ahmedabad court committed suicide, the story of his discrimination was narrated in a courtroom in the presence of a magistrate. As colleagues of Ketan Koradia called for an end to “caste-based discrimination”, back home, his parents recalled how a boy who had made them proud slid into “depression” because he was “harassed” by co-workers.
Before committing suicide on Sunday night, Ketan, who was posted as a junior clerk in the Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Ahmedabad’s Gheekanta area, is reported to have written down names of five of his colleagues who allegedly harassed him by making casteist remarks.
“They (the accused) once broke an earthen pot after my son drank water from it. They would never share a meal with my son and would keep him away while eating lunch in office. His colleagues would address him as a Dalit or a BC (backward caste). He dealt with this on a daily basis ever since he joined work,” his 50-year-old father Dalpat Koradia said, sitting at his home in Danilimda, a predominantly Dalit neighbourhood.
“When he was born, we had nothing. My wife and I used to sell clothes on a handcart and we raised Ketan and his sister Sangeeta with great difficulty. He got the court job at a salary of Rs 18,000 per month. We were so happy,” Dalpat said.
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A relative said Ketan had got engaged to a teacher in February, and that “he was happy”.
Ketan’s mother Jasu said he was a bright student who finished M.Com and got a government job in 2013.
Meanwhile, a look at the room where he hanged himself seemed to suggest Ketan was looking for another job, and study books and an admit card pointed to him having taken an exam for the deputy mamlatdar’s post in March last year. One of his friends confirmed he was “unhappy” in his current job.
In the FIR, his father alleged five court officials — C K Trivedi, G J Shah, R P Barot, K C Bhavsar and Bhati Saheb — were responsible for his son’s death. “To harass Ketan, he was transferred without any order to court number 7. Again, he was transferred to court number 14 in February without giving any reason, which depressed him further,” his father said in the FIR.
At the court, as a condolence meeting for Ketan got underway at 3 pm Tuesday, the courtroom was packed. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate M F Khatri sat in the middle of about a hundred staff members, mostly clerks. “The true condolence to Ketan would be to talk about casteist discrimination and burden of too much work. He was transferred to this court’s bench despite the fact that he had no knowledge of how courts work. He only knew accounts,” said a young employee.
Another said, “Caste-based discrimination does happen here. I won’t name anyone but a judge remarked about a clerk, ‘Aa toh adivasi che (he is a tribal)’ to indicate that the clerk was not competent. This is simply not done.”