Pooja Chaudhuri Chaudhuri
The only fiction I enjoy is in books and movies.
Dr Kafeel Khan was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on April 25 after spending eight months in prison. He shot to prominence for the role he played in trying to save dying children in Uttar Pradesh’s BRD Medical College hospital last year where more than 70 children lost their lives due to lack of oxygen. Dr Kafeel Khan was regarded as the prime accused and arrested shortly after.
Speaking to his family, The Logical Indian was told that Dr Kafeel’s health is gradually improving after spending months eating jail food and not getting proper medical treatment.
“He is resting right now. It will take him at least a month to get normal after facing such trauma,” said Adeel Khan, Dr Kafeel Khan’s brother. “We had given up hopes, thinking he will not be released any time soon but are very happy that he has finally got bail,” he added.
Dr Kafeel’s family has been doing court rounds since he was suspended in August last year on charges of “dereliction of duty” and for “carrying out private practice”. Their business suffered as they dedicated most of their time to get him out of prison.
Even though he has been released on bail, charges against him remain. One of the charges levelled against Dr Kafeel Khan is culpable homicide (Section 308). “They have written in the charge sheet that he tried to kill children by choking them. How can a children’s doctor take the life of children?” questioned his brother.
In the letter Dr Kafeel Khan wrote from prison, he explained how desperately he tried to save children as parents grew angry and liquid oxygen was in dire need. A copy of the 10-page letter is with The Logical Indian.
“I frantically called everyone, I begged, talked, ran, drove, ordered, yelled, screamed, consoled, counselled, spent, borrowed, cried. I did all that was humanly possible,” he wrote.
Dr Kafeel paid from his pocket for oxygen cylinders every day until a tank was arranged. He drove to nearby hospitals in his car to get cylinders.
“But my life turned upside down when CM Yogi arrived the next morning (13.08.2017). He asked me – ‘so you are doctor Kafeel? You arranged cylinders?’ I said yes sir. He got angry – ‘so you think by arranging cylinders you can become a hero? I will see to it,” the paediatrician wrote in his letter.
“Yogi ji was angry because this incident came to the notice of media. I swear to my Allah I didn’t inform any media persons that night. They were already there,” he continued with a clear sense of fear in his writing.
The police started visiting his house – “howling, threatening and torturing my family”, he wrote. “People warned me that they would kill me in an encounter…I surrendered to save my family – thinking when I have not done anything wrong I should get justice.”
Dr Kafeel described the conditions in which he stayed in prison for 8 months – he slept on the floor with more than 150 prisoners in a cramped barrack with “millions of mosquitoes at night” and thousands of flies during the day. “Trying to swallow food to live, bathe half naked, shit in a toilet with broken door and waiting for Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays – the only days I would be permitted to meet my family.”
His brother told The Logical Indian that Dr Kafeel Khan has lost a lot of weight since he’s come home. “He has lost at least 10 kgs. His health deteriorated due to bad food and high blood pressure. He received no treatment in jail,” said Adeel Khan.
The family had applied for his bail twice – once in a sessions court, which rejected their plea and then in the Allahabad High Court that granted bail him on April 25, saying “no evidence of medical negligence” has been found against the doctor. Apart from culpable homicide, he is also charged under Section 409 (criminal breach of trust).
Oxygen supplier Manish Bhandari was granted bail earlier in April. As per official records, Bhandari had reiterated to the Uttar Pradesh government several times on the non-payment of dues.
BRD Medical College principal Rajeev Mishra and his wife Poornima Shukla still remain behind bars.
The family ensures that Dr Kafeel Khan is always accompanied if he steps outside. “System ne unko jo mujrim bana diya toh darr toh rahega hi (the system declared him a criminal so fear will always remain),” said Adeel Khan.
Dr Kafeel Khan’s brother described him as a “padha likha aadmi with no connection to politics.” He has published books available on Amazon and used to spend his time in jail reading novels and research material.
After the doctor was released on bail, some local politicians approached the family. But Dr Kafeel has no interest in joining politics.
“If his suspension is revoked, he will again start working in BRD Medical College. If not, he will find something else to do but will always work for the good of the people,” said his brother.
Adeel Khan told The Logical Indian that they wish to open an encephalitis ward for those who cannot afford treatment. “There have been so many deaths in the state due to encephalitis. It’s a big epidemic here. Every year, 6-8000 children die and the ones who survive are left disabled,” he said.
On the night of August 10, it was Dr Kafeel who decided to take control of the situation by driving to private homes to borrow oxygen cylinders. He even paid Rs 10,000 to an oxygen supplier out of his own pocket, reported CNN-News18.
His suspension had taken the country by surprise. Even as the death toll in Gorakhpur escalated, Dr Kafeel was a ray of light amidst despair. He was hailed as “the hero doctor” and a “one-man army” for his efforts in containing the situation and for using his own money to purchase oxygen cylinders for the children when the underfunded hospital failed to elicit a response from the government.
However, there were many who were convinced of his alleged crimes and, in turn, he was victim of online mobs and trolls who called him a “traitor” and “anti-national”. People even smeared him with rape allegations to malign his image.
Some of the charges against him are yet to be removed, however, his family and the doctor himself claim “he was made a scapegoat” for the government’s incompetence.
The Logical Indian community hopes that the UP government takes cognisance of the matter and rectifies loopholes in its administration. In a sane democracy, the government would have fallen after the death of 70+ children, but here we are in the middle of corruption and petty politics.
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