“You think by getting cylinders from outside you have saved lives and are a hero, we will see about that,” said Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to young doctor Kafeel Khan during his visit to Baba Raghav Das hospital in his home constitutency Gorakhpur. This was after over 70 children had died because of a shortage of oxygen, crucial as medication in encephalitis cases.
Dr. Kafeel shot into prominence due to his heroic act of arranging oxygen cylinders during the crisis. According to his brother Adeel, he was on leave on the day the oxygen supply dipped August 10). The moment he learnt about the crisis – from the paediatricians’ Whatsapp group – he sprung into action. He later arranged for around 250 cylinders each in the next two days.
It is an acknowledged fact among Gorakhpur’s medical community that had this doctor not taken the initiative, the toll would have been far higher. Within the days of the tragedy, he became a hero. His story of arranging and paying from his own pocket went viral on social media. Subsequently, in a dramatic turn of events in the following days, Kafeel was turned into the “villain” of the tragedy, with the coverage also taking a communal turn.
‘Savior’ became ‘Accused’
Khan has spent almost six months in jail, with his bail pleas being rejected. He was included in a FIR filed against nine persons by the state government. He was arrested later by the Special Task Force constituted for the purpose. This followed a high profile enquiry by the District Magistrate, and then subsequently by the Chief Secretary. Khan was being accused of not informing his seniors in time, of taking leave without proper permission, of running a private practice against norms.
Along with Dr.Kafeel, Dr. R.K. Mishra, the then principal of the medical college for “gaban” or embezzlement of government funds and medical negligence was also charged. The document invokes sections 409, 308 and 120b of the Indian Penal Code, which, if proved, could mean life imprisonment for the two.
Later on 24th November, Dr. Kafeel with attempt to murder and criminal conspiracy for the tragedy which occurred in August. However, he was cleared of charges of corruption and running a private clinic for lack of evidence.
After the accusations against Kafeel, Adeel says the family has been vilified on account of their religion. “People called us ‘chor’, ‘ISI agents’, ‘Pakistani’, all sorts of abuses,” he says. Ayesha, Adeel’s wife, says that she discovered the pictures of the doctor, with his wife in her bridal attire, also surfaced on YouTube, along with the accusations.
The harassment by Police was to such extent that he had to surrender. “Police would come and sit at our home for hours in the night. My wife would get scared. My sister and her children were also getting caught in crossfire. It was only due to that pressure that he turned himself in,” recalls Adeel.
Dr. Kafeel’s arrest proved two things. First, Adityanath’s ‘will teach you a lesson’ attitude is causing more harm than good. Second, the veil of bureaucracy is still quite opaque and with the advent of absolute power of BJP govt, it has metamorphosed into a smokescreen. It is both regretful and shameful that the only doctor who took initiative in that tragedy is behind the bars. And the worst – we all know the real story. But, we don’t have intent or courage or ‘time’ to ask the right questions.