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.