Dr. Preethi Dharavath was a 26-year-old PG medical student at Kakatiya Medical College (KMC) in Warangal, Telangana. She suffered ragging, humiliation, and harassment at the hands of her senior Mohammed Saif. On Feb 22, Preethi attempted suicide and died four days later at NIMS Hospital. Student organizations, tribal associations, and some politicians stood by Preethi and protested, but doctors and officials at the college and the hospital dismissed the accusations and trivialized the harsh treatment of juniors.
Preethi had been telling her dad Narender that Saif was harassing her since her joining in Nov 2022. Narender submitted a written complaint twice, but principal Mohan Das and the Head of the Department Nagarjuna Reddy didn’t act. When Narender asked Preethi to leave that place, she didn’t agree (due to the scarcity of money to go to another college).
She was afraid that seniors would deduct her marks and refuse certificate to her if anything went wrong. Hence she pleaded with Narender to not complain to anyone and that she will handle the issue herself. During her last call with dad on the night of Feb 21, he asked her if she was still being harassed, she eerily responded ‘dad, you will see the result soon’.
On Feb 20, Narender finally filed a police complaint, saying Saif was harassing her during their duty at MGM hospital, was making her work overtime, humiliating and harshly criticizing her. The police then called KMC and ordered principal Mohan Das to act on the harassment swiftly. Mohan Das was dismissive of the ragging allegations and later admitted he only counseled Preeti and Saif. (whereas Saif should have been suspended and removed)
Preethi faced trouble in dealing with work stress. On the day of the suicide attempt, she had requested Saif to permit her an early leave. Forget that, he didn’t even allow her to go to the toilet. (That is a part of the ragging). Later, she was found unconscious by other seniors. She had injected herself with a drug used for anesthesia. The last google search on her phone was to inquire what happens if the anesthetic drug is taken. Seniors tried treating her but took her to NIMS as her organs began to fail. On her arrival there, the doctors said there was no chance she would survive.
The police filed a suicide attempt case with abetment of suicide, ragging, and SC/ST Act (as Preethi was Banjara). Dr. Chandrasekhar from MGM claimed no syringe marks were found on Preethi’s skin. Neither did police find any syringe or bottle in the student room.
As Preethi was battling for her life in NIMS, Saif and three others were being questioned in custody. Saif claimed he only warned Preethi ‘to not write on the record of others’. Whereas Preethi felt persistently harassed and deliberately insulted by him. He dismissed that claim calling it a ‘prevailing culture’ among juniors and seniors.
However, after the police examined the phones of Preethi and Saif, they concluded that he had in fact persistently harassed her (but ruled out love angle and sexual harassment). They examined group and personal chats and found that recently on Feb 18, Saif had addressed her harshly inside a group. After that, she sent him a personal message asking him to mind his business, not to insult her, and to complain to HoD instead of chat groups.
This had become Saif’s behavior where he would try to humiliate Preethi in front of others. Preethi had questioned the treatment juniors were receiving from seniors. It shows that one or more seniors being angry at her had the basis that she didn’t give in to the ragging nature.
An audio clip has gone viral claiming to be a recording of a call between Preethi and her mother. Preethi is allegedly heard accusing Saif of harassment. That clip was also taken for authenticity check.
After Preethi was hospitalized, student organizations staged protests outside KMC, but the police took their leaders away. Although KMC juniors prayed for Preethi, they strongly stood by Saif. They called senior-junior clashed ‘commonplace’ and demanded Saif be relieved from charges.
Similar to principal Mohan Das, Dr. Ramesh Reddy (Director of Medical Education) also dismissed the allegation of harassment by seniors. He said seniors ‘could have been harsh, but it wasn’t ragging’. Narender rubbished those claims and accused the college of spreading rumors that Preethi had ailments that had something to do with what happened to her.
On Feb 26, after four days of many attempts to save her, Dr. Preethi passed away at NIMS. The doctors were cautious about announcing her death as furious student organizations and others were outside. Before the announcement, the doctors tried to counsel Narender, his wife, and three other children.
After the announcement, the student organizations began protesting alongside the family members of Preethi. Some politicians were also present. They initially refused to let Pretthi’s body be taken away for postmortem. Members of tribal associations demanded Saif be “encountered” to send a message to those who rag. The police clashed with students.
Narender said that they have been assured support by the government, which they want in writing and conveyed in person. They demanded details of the treatment and assurance of action against Saif. Later, the body was taken for postmortem at Gandhi Hospital and finally sent to Jangaon for last rites.
Talking about Preethi, Narender said that being only a 12th pass himself, his family was over the moon after their daughter earned an MBBS seat. He worked very hard to make the dreams of his children come true. His son Vamshi became a mechanical engineer, his eldest daughter a software engineer, the second daughter a worker with CBSE, and the youngest Preethi a doctor.
Telangana government has promised 10 lakh rupees in compensation to Preethi’s family. However, Narender claimed he was promised another 20 lakh and a high-ranking government job by Panchayat Raj minister Dayakar Rao.
Narender has demanded a judicial inquiry blaming Saif for his daughter’s death (calling it a murder). Saif remains in custody. Let’s hope the investigation gives a fair conclusion and justice is served.