#JusticeForBhagwat: Student’s Death by Suicide Proves Even Doctors Can’t Shake Off Spectre of Caste

Social Commentary

#JusticeForBhagwat: Student’s Death by Suicide Proves Even Doctors Can’t Shake Off Spectre of Caste

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Over 10 days have passed since a 28-year-old aspiring doctor, Bhagwat Devangan, was found hanging from the ceiling fan in his hostel room, in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. Devangan was studying at the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose medical college, where he endured bullying and torture from his seniors, his brother has alleged.
“My brother was used to staying by himself since he was in Class 6. He was self-reliant and took good care of himself. Only after coming to Jabalpur, he suddenly faced a lot of humiliation and discrimination,” Prahlad said in a report by The Wire.

Devangan’s family believe that the root of the discrimination he faced was his caste. Though he had gained admittance to the institute in the general category, his seniors would mock him as a “quota student”, since he belonged to the Other Backward Class (OBC) category. Devangan’s lower economic and social status compared to his peers in the college led them to torment him.

A report by BBC Hindi claims that he had already attempted suicide once, in July this year, by consuming sleeping pills. Back then, he had told his family about the abuse at the hands of his seniors, as well as filed an anonymous complaint with the college’s anti-ragging committee. But no action was taken.

The college’s anti-ragging committee, meanwhile, has denied that ragging played a role in Devangan’s suicide. However, Prahlad’s testimony of what his brother was facing cannot be discounted, particularly since the matter is still under investigation.

If true, the allegations that Devangan’s seniors targeted him because of his caste are troubling, given how these students are the future doctors and medical professionals of the country. Casteist behaviour is the opposite of modern thinking and scientific temper, which is something you would hope to see in a doctor.

As long as unnecessary deaths like Devangan’s continue to take place, India cannot claim to have shaken off the spectre of caste.