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Falsely Blamed For Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy, Doctor Shares His Story With JNU Students

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On Tuesday, May 15, in Jawaharlal Nehru University students union office, students were all sitting patiently, jam-packed to welcome Dr Kafeel Khan, who completed his unwarranted jail term for saving the lives of kids in the Gorakhpur massacre. The program and interaction were organised by the Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organisation (BASO) in JNU. Dr Kafeel’s interaction with JNU students gave them the hope and promise that they were not alone in the fight against the country’s fascist regime.

Dr Kafeel was calm but enraged to the core due to the injustice done to him, his family and most importantly to the 63 kids who died in BRD hospital in those fateful 48 hours. He called the incident a “massacre” with the conviction that it happened exclusively due to the gross administrative failure that had taken so many lives. Sixty three newborn babies were born and died on the same day. Some parents had waited for 13 to have a baby, some eight years, some had undergone long infertility treatments. They all have lost a part of themselves.

The incident was not an accident but was a culmination of serious administrative failures. For the past six months before the incident, the vendor who supplied liquid oxygen continuously wrote letters after letters to the concerned authority for the disbursal of payment of ₹60 lakh. Dr Kafeel said the vendor wrote nineteen letters to various authorities including the chief minister regarding the payment of the due and there was an indifferent response from the authorities. Kafeel was made a scapegoat by the authorities, abused by the UP health minister and the chief minister Yogi Adityanath.

The FIR filed against Kafeel included sections which accuse him of murder and corruption. He spent eight months in jail, and the honourable court granted him bail through a clear verdict which denied all accusations made against him by the Yogi police. Without giving any compensation to the parents who lost their kids and denying all the responsibilities for the incident, Yogiji and his cohorts once again proved their true character and authoritarian nature.

By making Dr Kafeel a scapegoat, the people responsible for the massacre in Gorakhpur are still roaming around freely. Dr Kafeel’s family underwent harassment and discrimination, his elder brother was arrested and his business properties confiscated, his brother-in-law and sister were threatened continuously by the police. During his jail term, the constant intimidation and threat towards his life and mental torture caused him deep fear.

Dr Kafeel did his MBBS and MD in Paediatrics from Manipal University, Karnataka. Out of the 330 students in his MBBS batch, only eight have settled in India and majority have migrated to Western countries. He also got many offers to go abroad with attractive packages. But he had a strong commitment to stay back in his native place, Gorakhpur and improve the public health system. The corrupted authorities did not respect his commitment, and this incident made him lose faith in the system. He was persecuted and jailed for his commitment towards his profession and dedication to the people.

Dr Kafeel ended his interactive session on an emotional note. He said, “If you are not hearing about me, please do enquire about me, they are haunting me, they can physically assault and kill me in the future.” The overarching fear psychosis enforced on us is evident in Dr Kafeel’s words. He is a fighter, and a conscience of this nation, and his decision to speak up against gross human rights violations. He dared to call the Gorakhpur incident a “massacre”, and that needs to be appreciated. We need people like Dr Kafeel to maintain the conscience of our nation, his presence and interaction with the students instilled in them the hope to fight tooth and nail against any fascist onslaught in our country.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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