Over 200 protesters gathered outside the KEM Hospital on January 18, 2022, demanding action against the Dean and hostel warden, while decrying the severe delay in investigations into and resolution of a caste-based ragging incident.
People from the Mahar community, the Dalit Panther Suvarnamahotsav Samiti, the Forum against Oppression of Women and youth fronts observed a silent protest on Tuesday, two days after the police registered the complaint of a 24-year-old medical student who was allegedly verbally and physically abused by other hostel boarders due to his caste.
According to the FIR, the youth Sugat Padghan faced severe ragging and casteist slurs since 2019 from 16 persons, including 12 medical students in the hostel and two doctors working at the hospital. Padghan spoke about how his roommates joined in the torture and even the warden of the hostel told him to maintain a “distance” when speaking. He was also not allowed to use the common clothesline and forbidden from entering the warden’s house while others made regular visits.
Condemning all this, protesters demanded that the Deans and wardens since 2019 should also be listed as co-accused in the case for not reporting the incident to police on April 10, 2019 when Padghan first voiced his grievance.
The survivor was finally able to get closer to some amount of justice and avenue for redressal when he approached the State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in December 2021 as a third-year student with the help of Jaati Ant Sangharsh Samiti leader Subodh More. After a month’s delay, the police charged the accused under section 3 of the SC and ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act, 1989, section 4 of the Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1999 and other IPC sections such as intentionally insulting a person to provoke and criminal intimidation.
The hospital claimed that they conducted two investigations but could not verify Padghan’s accusation. In response, More said the committee meetings did not record his information and concerns when he attended one of the virtual meets.
“In the first place, the anti-ragging committee was made after these incidents happened. This is a violation of UGC laws. The Dean is lying about the committee report,” said More.
As of January 19, Dean Sangeeta Rawat said the hospital has handed the reports over to the police and will act as per police direction. She maintained that the hospital conducted their investigation. Meanwhile, Bhoiwada ACP Sangita Patil said police investigations are on-going. Protesters demanded that until the matter is concluded, Padghan should receive police protection.