Dr Kafeel Khan: ‘They said I invented a powder to kill millions of Indians’

New Delhi: “They stripped me naked. Didn’t allowed me to sleep, drink water and eat food for three days. They used batons and sticks to hit me. I couldn’t sit forso many days.” This is what Dr Kafeel Khan, Gorakhpur-based paediatrician, told Gulf News in an interview after his release from jail.

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Dr Khan was first arrested in August 2017, following the oxygen tragedy in the BRD Medical College, Gorakhpur in which about 70 children died over three days.

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The departmental inquiry gave him a clean chit later, but Dr Khan has not been reinstated yet.

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He was then booked under the stringent National Security Act by the Yogi Adityanath-led Uttar Pradesh Government and was put behind bars after the UP Special Task Force arrested him from Mumbai for his alleged inflammatory speech in anti-CAA protest at Aligarh Muslim University in February 2020. After spending nearly seven months in a barrack with 150 inmates, Dr Khan came out after an intense battle was fought in and out of the court. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:

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Gulf News: You were arrested by the UP STF. How did they treat you ?

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Dr Kafeel Khan: The UP STF picked me from Mumbai and took me to some unidentified location. They kept me with them for 72 hours. They made me naked. Didn’t allow me to sleep, drink water and eat food for three days. They used batons and sticks to hit me. I couldn’t sit for many days. They slapped me and didn’t allow me to speak to my family. I am unaware of the names of the STF people. They were 4 to 5 of them, wearing plain clothes. I asked about their identity cards and arrest warrant, but they refused to show anything to me. Through media my family came to know about my arrest and that is how they came to meet me. After 72 hours, the STF handed me to the local police.

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What did the STF want to know ?

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Dr Khan: They asked very weird questions. Whether I had invented a powder which could kill millions of Indians. I replied, ‘How can I make powder to kill Indians? I am a doctor, not a criminal or terrorist. They also told me that I had gone abroad to [seek help to] overthrow the government. I don’t know from where they got these ideas. I told them that my passport has already been impounded.

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How was your life in the jail ?

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Dr Khan: In Mathura jail, too, I was initially tortured. I was kept in solitary confinement. My family was not allowed to meet me. It was only after the court’s intervention that my family met me in jail. After that I was shifted to the normal barracks. The capacity of that barrack was of 60-70 inmates. But we were 150 inmates in one barrack. In a time of pandemic, this was very dangerous. Some inmates had cough and cold. Initially I was not given proper food in Mathura Jail. With the result that I was so hungry that I started chewing my clothes. The officer at Mathura jail told me that for proper treatment I should stop criticising government policies, CAA and NRC.

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Were you sent to jail and tortured because of your religion?

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Dr Khan: Even If it would have been Kafeel Mishra in place of Kafeel Khan, the government would have done the same thing.

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You were sent to jail for your inflammatory speech during anti-CAA protest?

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Dr Khan: My speech is in public domain. There’s nothing inflammatory in it. In reality I was sent to jail because after I got a clean chit in all the inquiries in the deaths of the children in oxygen tragedy in BRD hospital, Gorakhpur. I started exposing the ailing medical system of Uttar Pradesh. Which resulted in my arrest. The government to save real culprits of BRD oxygen tragedy, made me a scapegoat.

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Will you again participate in the anti-CAA protest if they resume after pandemic gets over in India ?

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Dr Khan: Yes! Why not? I will not relent.

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Do you have any political ambitions ?

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Dr Khan: I have no political ambitions. Neither I will leave Uttar Pradesh as some section of media have been reporting after I came to Jaipur [in Rajasthan]. I am in Jaipur for a brief period with my family to recover from the mental trauma I faced in last three and a half years.

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What are your future plans ?

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Dr Khan: I have an NGO, through which, with public funding, I want to start a 500-bed hospital at the Uttar Pradesh-Bihar border, to serve the poor, irrespective of their caste, religion and gender.

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The case against you was registered at Aligarh, but after your arrest, you were kept in Mathura Jail. Why?

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Dr Khan: The government knew that if they keep me in Aligarh Jail,the students of AMU would protest strongly.

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How you see the legal battle ahead of you?

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Dr Khan: In total I have three cases against me. The government has no evidence against me. That is why the trial has not yet begun. They only give me dates after dates… When I was arrested, no lawyer was willing to take my case. But after they got convinced that I was the target of the state, they took up my case.

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