“They asked me to forget the children died in oxygen tragedy, how will I? They died in front of our eyes”; Dr Kafeel Khan

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In a public address via facebook live a day after his release, Dr Kafeel Khan, the suspended lecturer of BRD medical college recounted the torture he had to go through during the 8 months NSA detention in Mathura jail. Dr Khan was released at midnight of September 1, followed by the Allahabad High Court judgment that scrapped NSA. Dr Kafeel spoke of the interrogation and custodial torture he was subjected to.

Read the excerpts from his live address

“Judiciary has given a very good decision. The judgment said the speech was calling for national unity and integrity and it is not a hateful speech.  The judgment also said that Dr Kafeel talked about health, employment, education, food and shelter. I have spoken against CAA and NRC, I said that the protests must be non-violent. I said everyone must come together to the fight. Even after that which way I was being tortured after being arrested from Mumbai airport I was being interrogated for 48 hours. Special Task Force’s team asks me, you made some powder by which crores of Indians will die, I said I am a pediatrician, why should I make it? “You want to bring down the government, we have call recordings”, I said, make me listen to it. I am not a politician. “You had gone to Japan,” I asked why didn’t you name Pakistan?  How can I go Japan when my passport is with the judiciary? I was tortured like this and sent to jail.

I felt thousand times more of the pain I felt for nine months detention following BRD oxygen tragedy. I ate the food in jail only to survive. Yet more prisoners are to be released. I was hoping that I will meet you all again and all your prayers worked. Now I am with you. Nine months in jail, after those two months in jail in Bahraich case, after that eight months of torture. In jail it was being said repeatedly that “you will not speak about the seventy children who died in BRD, forget them.” How to forget them? They were dying in front of me!

When Corona didn’t even enter India on January 27th, I uploaded a video about corona. I have given all the instructions to face the virus. On January 30th, first case got reported in India. On 19th March I sent a letter to respected prime minister Narendra Modi, via jail superintendent in which I warned that we can’t save ourselves from community transmission because India is in such a condition. I have traveled through the entire country, I know how much poverty is here. How do the families who live in slums and huts maintain social distancing? For the poor people it is not easy, how many migrant laborers died walking and stranded in trains? Today in what a mess our country is in? We are going to reach in the second place in numbers of cases all over the world.

I could’ve done good work against this virus in eight months, but I was not allowed to. I was made to wait for half an hour to get into the toilet, half an hour to take bath, it was that hot that the clothes and the bed itself gets wet. The jail has 1600 prisoners when its capacity only 554. Tell how social distancing is possible there? There is only one toilet for 150 people.

I was not the only one suffering, my entire family is suffering. My son was eleven months old when I was arrested. Now he started speaking and running around.  Last time when seventy children died in BRD I was sent to jail in a framed case. After nine months the High Court is saying Dr Kafeel Khan has done nothing wrong. Enquiry report also cited my innocence. My baby girl was eleven months when I was arrested for the first time. Now my own children can’t understand the meaning of father. This is pain. My mother has grown old, she is in the cycle of cases and traveling from High Court to Supreme Court.

I joined BRD medical college only in 2016, I was the junior most doctor, even then I tried to save the children’s lives by giving all what I could. The judgment takes note of the way my family too was haunted. You must be remembering my brother got shot, at the vicinity of chief minister. It is going to be three years of that incident, not a single person arrested in the case.

My speech at AMU was alleged that it is creating enmity between two religions and I tried to incite violence. They have quoted the entire speech in the judgment. They say that I didn’t talk anything that create enmity between two religions, I talked about national integrity and unity among citizens. I talked about our basic needs- education, health and food, economy, housing. I spoke of malnutrition caused child deaths in India. I spoke that 72% of our population have no access to health infrastructure. Now we are discussing GDP fall, it was falling even before. A poor person does not get treatment. They are forced to carry the dead bodies on the shoulders. I was fighting for them. I conducted 103 medical camps and treated fifteen thousand children. I was not alone, there were many other doctors. I could have even researched for the vaccine against CoVID. But they put me in jail. I am demanding the chief minister of UP that reinstate my position in BRD. It has been three years since I am suspended. I can’t even tell you how the expenses are met for living and the cases, but I fought. I feel speaking up is very important.

Yesterday the court order had reached the court at around 11 am, the Aligarh DM also had received the same. But even then, for 12 hours they were trying to charge another case on me somehow, like they did last time. I was kept in custody for four days, I was illegally detained, then they booked me under NSA. Anything can happen to me now. This could be our final meeting. In March I had estimated that around 30 to 40 lakhs of people will be affected, already that number we crossed. The virus will not stop. Until the vaccine come a year will be taken. We are supposed to work hard for that. Much populated states like UP, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh are suffering the worst of community spread. We have to work together. I need all your support.

The prime time TV discussions will not be about crores of migrants walked back to their homes, how unemployment increased, the discussion will never be on health. Why do politicians and bureaucrats go to multi specialty hospitals in Noida not to the government hospitals?  Why? Because the conditions of government hospitals are very poor where the poor will go and the poor will die.  If the poor are dying, let them die.

Those people who think by putting me in jail repeatedly, by beating and hitting, hit after hanging upside down, by beating under the feet to break my person doesn’t know that I will not be afraid. I won’t bend. I do not get scared.  I call the soil where my feet is on “mother”, you charge NSA on saying that? I used to treat malnutrition in kids, now I am in malnutrition. I was tortured in jail both mentally and physically. Physical torture gets over but the mental torture stays for many days. It ruins the mind. I grew ten years older.

We must trust on Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s Constitution. I could come out only because of it. Ours is not an autocracy, it is a democratic set up, free speech is provided by Article 21.”

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