UP police files 6th FIR against Dr Kafeel Khan for maligning image of Yogi govt

Dr Khan's book chronicles his trials & harassment over the Gorakhpur oxygen tragedy, where the state tried to scapegoat him for administrative negligence. The govt accuses him of 'conspiracy'

Dr Kafeel Khan, author of 'The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy' (photo: National Herald archives)
Dr Kafeel Khan, author of 'The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy' (photo: National Herald archives)

NH Digital

A criminal case has been lodged against Dr Kafeel Khan, formerly employed as a paediatrician at the Gorakhpur-based Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College, for allegedly inciting people against the government and creating hatred in society through his book.

The FIR lodged against him and five others in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow states that he was publicising the 2017 Gorakhpur oxygen tragedy, especially among Muslims, with the intent of tarnishing the image of the Yogi Adityanath government and instigating communal riots in the state. This is the sixth FIR filed against the doctor in a similar vein.

In his book The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy: A Doctor’s Memoir of a Deadly Medical Crisis, Khan chronicles the events of the fateful night in August 2017 when several infants died in the BRD Hospital due to lack of oxygen. He also documents the trials and harassment he faced at the hands of the state, in its attempt to make him the scapegoat for the administrative negligence.

This latest FIR has been lodged on the complaint of flex painting businessman Manish Shukla at Krishna Nagar police station in Lucknow. Shukla claims to be a social activist and says he is not aligned with any political party.

Shukla has claimed that he overheard four or five unidentified persons in a marketplace discussing efforts to bring down the government and to riot. The men, who had no identifiers per the FIR, reportedly spoke of Khan “secretly” distributing his book in the state and collecting funds from his community (Muslims) for a “secret plot”.

Shukla claimed that the men spoke of Khan trying to reach out to as many Muslim people as possible and publicise the book before the 2024 Lok Sabha election. He also claimed that the conversation suggested Khan was “secretly meeting” people to publicise the book.

“Under (sic) any cost, a pro-Hindu government should not come to power at the Centre, and the Yogi government should also be uprooted, even if it requires inciting riots,” Shukla said, quoting the alleged conversation among the unidentified co-accuseds.

Describing his reaction to the alleged conversation, Shukla said he felt “Dr Kafeel’s people can spread hate among the public at a large scale and disturb peace; they could also incite riots or even be terrorists”.

Shukla said he did not confront the men and decided instead to call his friends first. But when he and his friends confronted the co-accused, they escaped in the dark, dropping a copy of the book written by Khan. “We did not run after them fearing that they might be carrying bombs,” claimed Shukla in the FIR.

In his complaint, Shukla said the book falsely held the Adityanath government responsible for the Gorakhpur oxygen tragedy.

The book has been written to “enrage” a “specific community” and to spread riots and “class hatred”, and depicts the “imaginary plight” of UP’s health system, stated Shukla. He reportedly said that he wanted action to be taken against such people, who are anti-social elements.

In the FIR lodged per Shukl's complaint, Khan has been charged under Sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings), 465 (forgery), 298 (uttering words with deliberate intent to wound religious feelings) and 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace) of the Indian Penal Code. The FIR also invokes sections 3 and 12 of the Press and Registration of Books Act, 1867.

“A case has (been) registered at Krishna Nagar Police Station and investigation is going on. We will take appropriate action as per the law,” said Vinay Kumar Dwivedi, assistant commissioner of police at Krishna Nagar, according to the Hindu.

“It is ridiculous and frightening that I am booked on such charges in Uttar Pradesh at a time when I am staying away from the state since my release from the Mathura jail in September 2020,” said Khan in response. “My elderly mother, wife and the entire family are worried after hearing about the case registered against me, which is a new round of intimidation tactics,” he continued.

Dr Khan’s book was released in December 2021 and was translated into six languages, including English, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Marathi and Malayalam.

It may be recalled that Dr Kafeel Khan also faced imprisonment for more than seven months due to a speech delivered in Aligarh during the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC).

Dr Khan, who is a former lecturer at the Department of Paediatrics, Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital in Gorakhpur, came under the government scanner after he witnessed the unfortunate death of 63 children and 18 adults when the hospital faced a critical shortage of oxygen supply in 2017.

He arranged for oxygen quickly, but then he was “made a scapegoat” to divert attention from the deaths.

In 2021, his service was terminated.

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