Let Yogi Ji compensate parents of children who died at Gorakhpur: Dr Kafeel to NH

‘Tu Hai Dr Kafeel…Dekhta Hoon Tujhe’, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath had told him, recalls Dr Kafeel in an interview to Sanjukta Basu for National Herald. The full interview:

Dr Kafeel Khan 
Dr Kafeel Khan

Sanjukta Basu

Two years after he was jailed, where he remained for nine months without bail, an inquiry committee appointed by the UP government absolved Dr Kafeel Khan of any responsibility in the death of 60 children in two days at the state run BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur. They were all suffering from Encephalitis. Dr Khan was accused of not ensuring the supply of oxygen, which was in any case not his responsibility.

He was not involved in any private practice at the time of the incident either and no evidence of medical negligence were found against him.

Dr Khan believes he had to go through this ordeal because the UP Chief Minister made him a scapegoat in order to save his health minister.

He spoke to Sanjukta Basu after the report exonerating him was made public. Here are the excerpts:

Can you tell us how did so many serious charges were even laid upon you to begin with were there any kind of enquiry going on, did you have a hint this was coming?

Not at all. It happened suddenly immediately after the tragedy. I had only joined BRD in August 2016, barely a year before, and I was on probation. So, I had no administrative responsibility, no decision-making power or authority to even indulge in corruption. The media made me in In-charge of Encephalitis Ward, Principal, Head of the Department-- all baseless and irresponsible social media information that mainstream media picked up.

So, you were a junior doctor…

Not junior, I was the junior most. The investigation has now established this. It also absolves me of all related charges. How would a doctor be responsible for supply of oxygen? I arranged some cylinders because I couldn’t see children dying in front of me.

The public perception is that you were unfairly targeted because of your Muslim identity, would you agree?

No,no. I never said this. The UP Chief Minister targeted me because he wanted to save his health minister and DGME Dr KK Gupta who was responsible for making the payment for the oxygen. He didn’t clear the payment. They thought I was trying to be a whistleblower by exposing the tragedy in public. Usually,children die everywhere in this country, like in Bihar so many children died of chamki fever, but nobody cares. This incident justly got attention,because it was a man-made disaster. So, to save his people, Yogi ji made me a scapegoat.

In one of your public utterances you were quoted as saying that the UP Chief Minister visited BRD hospital, and as he looked at you he said something to the effect that you would be taught a lesson. Is this true?

Yes of course. Several other people were also there that day.Like the District Magistrate of Gorakhpur was present, so was the Commissioner,and my whole team. Yogi ji came and asked in Hindi, “Who is Dr. Kafeel?” He then looked at me said, “Tu hai Dr. Kafeel (So you are Dr. Kafeel)?” I thought it was a general question, but was a bit shaken as he used “tu” instead of “tum”.

Tu cylinder laya tha? Tu sochta hai hero ban jayega,dekhta hun tujhe (You brought the cylinders? You think you will become hero? I will see to it),” he said.

Those four words, ‘dekhta hun main tujhe’ changed my whole world. I faced suspension, arrest, torture, there were raids at my home, my brother was shot at. Never imagined those four words could change my life.

Does that make you angry?

Right now I just feel relieved.

What about your emotion when you were going through the ordeal, was it anger or fear or something else?

First it was fear. But once in jail it was ‘determination’. I knew I had done nothing wrong, I read a lot of books in jail. I felt that God had a plan for me,whatever was happening was for a reason; there are no coincidences. Finally,when I came out of jail, I was determined to fight for those 70 kids who died.

Do you want to seek some kind of compensation and apology from the government for all the harassment?

See, I have three demands. First, they should give me my job back with full respect. I am still under suspension. Secondly, there should be a CBI inquiry as to who really were responsible for the death of those children? The investigation should be shifted out of UP. And thirdly, they should compensate the parents who lost their children.

You don’t seek any compensation for yourself ?

Nobody can give me back what I have lost. No compensation can help. When I was taken to jail, my daughter was just 10 months old, when I came out of jail (April 29,2018) and saw her, she didn’t even recognise me. I missed her growing up days,I missed the day she first walked.

But don’t you think somebody should pay for the all the metal agony, perhaps you could take the government to the court in a civil suit?

Well, such cases don’t happen in India, do they? A lawyer would charge Rs 50 thousand to stand each time in Court. I cannot afford that.Moreover, at least I am alive, my mother has been able to see her son again,what about those parents whose children are dead? Yogi government may kindly do justice to them. I don’t want anything for myself.

Were conditions in the prison very hostile?

Well, they were horrible. One toilet for 180 inmates! You couldn’t breathe because of the stench. Terrible food for nine months! The same mooli ki sabji and kacchi roti

But jail also made me stronger. For nine months nobody came to meet me but when I came out, I couldn’t believe the support I got, millions of people were there for me. I was financially broken, within three days people raised money, Rs 22 lakhs!

I received so much love and support, they made me stronger. Itis a big fight and far from over.

Lastly, what next? Have you got any job offers or some other opportunities?

No job offer yet. But I am involved in the Health for All campaign launched in 13 states; we are fighting for Right to Healthcare for children.

The year 70 children died in BRD, eight lakh children died all over India, 100 children dying every hour from preventable diseases. So,this is what our campaign is fighting against. Meanwhile, I have also written a book.

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