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From a ‘hero’ to ‘murderer’ within hours: Dr Kafeel Khan releases book on Gorakhpur tragedy

Speaking about the incident which upended his life and in which 18 adults and 63 children lost their lives after the state-run Gorakhpur hospital ran out of oxygen, Dr Khan points out that the healthcare system in north India is in dire straits.

Dr Kafeel khan, Gorakhpur, UP, UAPADr Kafeel khan. (File)

Recalling the fateful night in August 2017 which changed his life forever, Dr Kafeel Khan said newborn babies comprised 70% of the 63 children who died at the state-run Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh after the hospital ran out of liquid oxygen. Eighteen adults too lost their lives.

Dr Khan was launching his book ‘The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy’ in the city in which he recounts the controversial incident in detail. “Even after five years of that incident, nobody speaks of the families who lost their members on that night. The media that made me the hero, within 48 hours of the incident, called me murderer of children,” he told The Indian Express.

He wanted to write the book to document the sufferings of his family as well, Dr Khan remarked, adding that he was made a scapegoat by the government so that the real culprits could be saved.

On being asked if he was planning to contest in the upcoming polls in Uttar Pradesh, he said, “I have not decided yet. But definitely, I do not want BJP to come to power.”

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According to the book, Dr Khan was the junior-most lecturer at the college’s paediatrics department at the time, but he went to great lengths to secure oxygen cylinders, perform emergency treatment and rally the staff to prevent as many deaths as possible.

“The doctor-patient ratio in Uttar Pradesh is 1:51,000. Healthcare in the whole of north India is in shambles. I was called a hero for controlling the crisis and drawing attention to the healthcare system which needed an urgent overhaul. But a few days later, I found myself suspended and that an FIR had been filed against eight individuals, including me, for corruption and medical negligence, among other grave charges. I spent a harrowing night at the jail where I cried for food. My family was harassed by the administration,” he remembered.

Dr Khan added that out of the eight persons, the government reinstated seven.

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“While staying in Gorakhpur jail, I saw there was one toilet for more than 200 prisoners and in the nearby barrack, a former minister was given luxuries in jail,” he said.

His experiences prompted Dr Khan to initiate a ‘Health for All’ campaign to demand a Right to Healthcare legislation and a Doctors on Road programme to provide healthcare services to rural patients.

In January 2020, he was arrested again and charged under the National Security Act (NSA) for his allegedly inflammatory speech at the Aligarh Muslim University. He subsequently spent seven months in prison. On September 1, 2020, all charges under the NSA were dropped by the Allahabad High Court. However, Dr Khan was terminated from service on November 9, 2021 by the BRD Medical College.

 

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“Even as of December 2021, cases against me are being pursued in lower courts even though the enquiries conducted by the state and central governments have not found any evidence of medical negligence or corruption against me,” Dr Khan added.

His brother Adeel Khan said that despite so many impediments and setbacks they have not lost the zeal to fight for justice. “In this fight, I can only say that we are being treated like untouchables. My brother-in-law lost his job and I lost my business. Our relatives have stopped visiting us but we are still fighting. The pieces of land which we want to sell, nobody is ready to buy. My brother has not done any wrong. He deserves justice. Since the day he has launched the book, police have started visiting our houses though they know his whereabouts,” he said.

First published on: 31-01-2022 at 06:48:48 pm
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