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No Justice In Sight For Kafeel Khan, Gorakhpur’s “Hero Doctor”

Dr. Kafeel Khan’s is one of those tragic cases one has grown accustomed to expecting in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh.

In a recent interview to Aaj Tak, UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath has reiterated that disruption in oxygen supply was not the reason why more than 30 children had died in Gorakhpur’s state-run Baba Raghav Das hospital and medical college on August 10 and 11 last year. While the real reasons behind the death remain a mystery, the doctor who was initially feted by the media for launching a personal bid to gather oxygen cylinders to curb the deaths has been in jail for the past seven months.

Dr. Kafeel Khan’s is one of those tragic cases one has grown accustomed to expecting in Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh.

Slapped with IPC sections 120b (criminal conspiracy), 308 (culpable homicide) and 409 (criminal breach of trust), Khan’s bail plea was rejected by the Lucknow high court in September last year and he’s been in jail ever since.

Khan, of course, was initially credited for having helped save many lives by going out of his way to find oxygen cylinders for the hospital when the official suppliers refused to provide them, citing non-payment of dues. This fact was well publicized in the media.

But Khan was in for troubled times when the CM, who had been insisting all along that inadequate oxygen cylinders were not the reason for the deaths, visited the hospital and rebuked him in front of several staff members.

A four-member committee formed by the CM proposed action to be taken against Rajeev Mishra, former principal of Baba Raghav Das Medical College, Dr. Kafeel Khan and Pushpa Sales Private Limited, owned by Manish Bhandari, the private agency supplying liquid oxygen to the hospital.

The Week magazine reported on the arrests thus: Kafeel told the media that he had, in fact, arranged the jumbo cylinders that were brought in to manage the crisis. Kafeel, Mishra and seven others, including Manish Bhandari, the director of Pushpa Sales—the oxygen supplier—were arrested and have been in jail since. The case against them is “embezzlement of government funds, negligence, and creating circumstances that would affect the ‘chhavi’ [image] of the government”.

The Week further reported: Adeel says his brother was on leave on the day the oxygen supply dipped (August 10), but once he learnt of the crisis—a WhatsApp group for paediatricians had flagged the message that only 52 cylinders were available, which would be inadequate—just after midnight, he sprung into action and arranged for 250 cylinders each in the next two days. In days following the controversy, Kafeel was hailed by the local press for arranging several oxygen cylinders, some of which he is believed to have paid out of his own pocket, and the story went viral on social media networks. Subsequently, in a dramatic turn of events in the following days, Kafeel was turned into the “villain” of the tragedy, with the coverage also taking a communal turn.

Adityanath’s probe panel reportedly accused Khan of running a private clinic and siphoning off the hospital’s oxygen cylinders. He was arrested onSeptember 2. While Manish Bhandari of Pushpa Sales was granted bail by the Supreme Court on Monday, the future continues to look bleak for “the Muslim doctor” who, according to many Gorakhpur locals, is paying the price for not only garnering positive headlines when the Yogi government was being severely criticized for apathy over the deaths but also because he insisted that the deaths were a result of lack of oxygen supply.

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