Dr Kafeel Khan, who has granted bail in April 2018 after spending eight tumultuous months in jail, spoke at the Jawahar Nehru University (JNU) on May 13, about how the tragic incident which killed 63 children turned his life upside-down.
The Gorakhpur hospital tragedy
Addressing a room full of students, about the fateful incident, he said, “I really don’t want to remember those 48 hours”.
Cutting down the oxygen supply killed 63 out of the 400 kids. “Every 30 minutes, one kid died”
He said that the oxygen-supplying vendor Pushpa Sales had been writing to the authorities regarding the unpaid dues from past six months, but the authorities just kept on passing the buck. “The DGMA couldn’t answer when the investigating officers asked why he did not act (on the issue of unpaid dues).”
Talking about the utter feeling of despair that engulfed the whole hospital, Dr Kafeel said, “We worked for 48 hours, without even taking a break to have food. Not just me, the junior doctors, staff nurses and sweepers are also heroes.”
“The havoc was created due to administrative failure.”
The aggrieved parents of the children who died have not been compensated yet. “The government did not show any sympathy, they were always in denial mode. The bodies of those children were bundled up and handed to their parents.” Dr Kafeel also said that the parents were asked to slyly take the bodies by auto to avoid media attention.
Talking about the apathy of the authorities he said, “On August 11, the DM in an interview confessed to the lack of oxygen, in the evening he turned away from his statement and said that there was a jumbo cylinder and no deaths have occurred.”
“The health minister said these kinds of deaths happen”, Dr Kafeel added.
“Next day Yogiji came and first he caught hold of me and said, ‘you think by doing this, you will become a hero? I will see’, this was the only thing he said to me after which my whole life turned upside down.”
Post this, Dr Kafeel was slapped with several charges including those of corruption and culpable homicide. “Even my family was tortured. Police would arrive at my house at any hour and would stay for as long as three-fours hours. They would enter any room they wished to.”
“Even when media praised me, they (government) fed the IT cell which ran a smear campaign against me.”
“Jail was hell”
“We were lodged in one room along with 150-180 hardcore criminals, some were gangsters, few were there due to the POCSO act.”
He said that he was threatened against speaking out, saying that he would be killed.
“The jailers told me to forget about bail till 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But thankfully the judiciary acted and said that they did not find any evidence against me, although it took them eight months (to arrive at the decision).”
On a lighter note, he recalled an incident from his time in jail, “There was a person who was arrested for NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) act. I told him not to repeat this, he said, so what, you are also jailed (for doing good).”
When he was released after eight months, he was received by thousands of people, including the parents of the children who died. Dr Kafeel called it a “very emotional” moment.
“Fight for next generation”
“The irony is that even after 70 years of independence, heroism is not only based on your karma, but it is bestowed and denied on the basis of your religious beliefs.” He added that those in power can get away with anything.
Quoting a particular incident, he said, “One of my friends told me that the photo of me with a child and his mother went viral.” The friend tried approaching the mother in the photo who recognised Dr Kafeel but refused to associate her family with the incident due to fear. “This is the terror of Yogiji”, Dr Kafeel said.
He said that if this continues, it will be very difficult for the next generation. “People ask me if I am not scared of Yogiji, I say no, now I will fight back.”
“It is not a fight for us, but for the next generation which will live.”
He added that after getting released from jail, he visited several places where he received a lot of love. He realised that people related to him because this could happen to anyone. “Soul of India is same, (due to the tragedy) India’s soul got hurt”, he said.
“Will build encephalitis treatment center”
“People from other states and countries are asking me to settle there, but I am not leaving Gorakhpur.”
Dr Kafeel, who completed MBBS and MD from Manipal College, Karnataka said, “I wanted to bring the same working, professional commitment and zeal for improvement in that (BRD hospital) hospital, but I am sorry to say that I failed.”
Dr Kafeel is now planning to build a 500-bed encephalitis treatment center. “Encephalitis has killed 25,000 children in 25 years. Kids who survived are physically handicapped.”
He said that he will build the hospital “to save innocent kids”.