Stating that this is a case of “work pressure” and not harassment or caste discrimination, parents of the three resident doctors arrested in the Dr Payal Tadvi suicide case, on Friday claimed their daughters were innocent.
Tadvi committed suicide by hanging herself in her hostel room at Nair hospital on May 22, hours after telling her mother over the phone that she could no longer “bear the torture”. While naming three resident doctors — Ankita Khandelwal, Hema Ahuja and Bhakti Mehare — in her police complaint, Tadvi’s mother had alleged that casteist remarks and harassment drove the second-year PG gynaecology student to suicide.
“If my daughter has indulged in caste discrimination, then I would say punish her. But since childhood, she had never differentiated among her friends. She works in a public hospital where she treats patients without bias,” said Kailash Khandelwal, Ankita’s father and a businessman in Akola.
Ankita (27) had completed her MBBS from Nagpur Government Medical College, and cleared the National Entrance and Eligibility Test (NEET) in one attempt. “She only focussed on work. She had no time to even eat,” Kailash said.
Ankita’s cousin Ashish Khandelwal said the police should look into CCTV footage, which will prove that she was always busy working in the hospital. “She has always been a meritorious student,” he said, adding that when the police detained him, he helped them track Ankita to Pune. “She had no intention of running away,” he claimed.
Ankita’s parents planned to get her married after she completed her PG.
Ankita, Hema and Bhakti told their families that on May 22, after they found Payal’s body, they waited the whole night to record their statements with dean. None of them had ever spoken to their parents about Payal until her death. “Hema is very sensitive, she kept crying on the phone. Even when her patients died, she used to cry. How can she harass another student?” said Hema’s mother Kavita Ahuja, a native of Satna in Madhya Pradesh. Hema had completed MBBS from Banaras Hindu University, and opted for Nair’s gynaecology department after clearing NEET.
“Since Class IX, her aim was to become a doctor,” said father Suresh Ahuja, who owns a provision store. Hema would speak once a day to her mother. “She would talk for five minutes at 11 pm, just to wish me good night. She had no time to talk to her father for months,” Kavita said. “We feel for the family who lost their daughter. But we worry about our daughter’s future,” Suresh said.
In Mumbai, as he patiently paced the sessions court corridor waiting for the police to escort his only child to the courtroom, Arvind Mahere, a lecturer in Amravati college, said he belonged to the OBC.
Bhakti had taken a year off to prepare for PG entrance exams. “I have gone through the WhatsApp messages of their group, there is not even a single casteist remark,” said dentist Manish Pandhare, a relative of Bhakti.
The family claimed the only mistake the three women made was to abscond. “But before they ran away, they waited all night to record their statement with the dean. The dean did not listen to them and told them to go to the police,” said Pandhare.
A Kolkata-based relative of Bhakti said work pressure on resident doctors is immense, and the patient load huge. “We were always worried about her (Bhakti’s) health. She would keep working, taking no rest. This case is unprecedented,” he said, adding that Bhakti repeatedly told the family that she was not aware of Tadvi’s caste.
The families said if a fair investigation is conducted, the police will be able to establish that no harassment has taken place. “It is only work related pressure, not torture,” said the relative.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines