Paediatrician who saved countless lives during oxygen shortage in an encephalitis ward in a government hospital in Uttar Pradesh and anti-CAA activist who was booked under NSA.
Dr Kafeel Khan was born in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh and did his MBBS and MD (Paediatrics) from KMC, Manipal, Karnataka.
Kafeel Khan is the founder of HealthForAll, a campaign ensuring good health facilities. He also launched DoctorsOnRoad, an initiative to help rural India during the unprecedented times of Covid 19, along with doctor Dr Harjeet Bhatti.
Life and Activism
Kafeel Khan is a significant voice against the draconian policies of the government and a face of anti-CAA protests. Wrote articles during the Pandemic such as “5 Ways to Counter the ‘Triple Epidemic”, “COVID-19’s Negative Impact on Mental Health Is a Shadow Pandemic“, and his book ‘The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy’ recounts the controversial incident in detail.
BRD Medical College death case controversy
In August 2017, 63 children died at the state-run BRD Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur city of Uttar Pradesh, India, after the hospital’s piped oxygen supply ran out. Kafeel Khan was the junior-most lecturer at the college’s paediatrics department at the time and was present at the scene.
The Uttar Pradesh government denied that any deaths had occurred due to oxygen shortage. On 13 August 2017, Kafeel Khan was removed as the nodal officer in charge of the encephalitis ward on charges of dereliction of duty and carrying out private practice.
An FIR was registered against him and others after a written complaint by DG Medical Education, K. K. Gupta, under IPC sections 120B, 420, Prevention of Corruption Act, among others. He was then arrested after the court issued a non-bailable warrant. The resident doctors association of AIIMS condemned his arrest and said he was being made a scapegoat.
The court ruled that there was no evidence of medical negligence on his part. Khan insisted on calling the incident a massacre and blamed the UP administration.
On 27 September 2019, Khan was acquitted of all charges about the 2017 Gorakhpur Hospital deaths. However, he is still fighting against his unfair suspension from the hospital.
Circumstances of Arrest
Khan was arrested in Mumbai on 13 December 2019 by a special task force of the Uttar Pradesh police about a speech made by him at Aligarh Muslim University during the Anti Citizenship Amendment Act protests.
Charges and Allegations
The FIR alleged that Khan’s speech amounted to a criminal offence because it “sowed the seeds of discord and disharmony” amongst students, and included disparaging remarks against the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
He was granted bail on 10 February 2020 by an Aligarh court, but was re-arrested on 13 February 2020 and charged with offences under the National Security Act, before his actual release from jail.
On 26 June 2020, a group of officials and experts in the United Nations called on the Indian government to release political prisoners who had been arrested for protesting India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, including Dr Kafeel Khan.
On 1 September 2020, the Allahabad High Court ordered Khan to be released immediately and dropped the charges under the National Security Act 1980 against him.
The High Court noted that the evidence provided by the prosecution was insufficient to warrant charges under the National Security Act and that Khan had been denied the opportunity to examine the evidence led against him. The Court observed that this constituted a violation of Kafeel Khan’s constitutional rights, and accordingly set aside his detention.
In March 2022, Samajwadi Party decided to field Dr Kafeel Khan from the Deoria-Kushinagar MLC seat, as its candidate for the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council elections. In April 2022, Dr Kafeel Khan lost the election.