By Asmaa Ansari
Dr Kafeel Khan, is a renowned doctor from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh who in 2017 was arrested along with other doctors over the death of 60 children within 72 hours in Baba Raghavdas Medical College (BRD) of Gorakhpur due to oxygen shortage. An FIR was filed and during the investigation, Dr Khan was suspended and arrested. After an enquiry proved that the charges were insufficient, the doctor was released on bail after spending 9 months in jail. Dr. Khan came into the limelight when following a surge in Japanese B encephalitis in Baba Raghav Das Medical College and Hospital, he overcame the shortage of oxygen supplies through personal means. Despite his contributions he was charged with neglecting his duty as a doctor. Although he is acquitted, he remains suspended from the hospital.
Meanwhile in the same state, Vikas Dubey, a well known criminal with upto 60 cases charged against him between 1990 to 2020 who is well known for being accused in the killing of eight policemen during an attempted arrest remains free due to his strong political connections as well as with the police force. This reflects the dysfunctional nature of the law and how one’s religion and connections can make or break your life, regardless of the lawlessness of one’s actions.
Earlier this year, Dr Khan was arrested again by the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force from Mumbai on January 29 in connection with a speech he had delivered during an anti-CAA protest at the Aligarh Muslim University on December 12. The stringent National Security Act (NSA) has been slapped on Dr Kafeel Khan as the reports state that he tried to disrupt communal harmony. According to the Indian Constitution an arrested person cannot be denied the right to consult, and to be defended by, a legal practitioner of his/her choice. They should be informed about the reason of arrest and have the right to bail. However, under the National Security Act, none of these rights are available to the person detained. Moreover, the government can withhold information that they consider to be against public interest. The ambiguity of this act has garnered much public criticism. Furthermore, the detained person is not entitled to any legal aid.
Months later, still under arrest, Dr. Kafeel wrote a letter fearing his death in jail will be portrayed as a suicide. This four-page letter from Dr Kafeel has been tweeted by BSP MP Kunwar Danish Ali
Text of the letter
At 5:00 in the morning, the sound of soldiers awakes us from sleep. “Get up and walk in pairs for the count”. As soon as the count is complete, 1600 prisoners run to the bathroom in a jail which has the capacity of 534 people. Upto 125-150 prisoners stand in line for 4-6 toilets in each barrack. I am often in the third to fourth position to be fresh. As i wait for my turn, the pain in my stomach increases. By the time I enter the toilet, the smell and the flies make me vomit before I can take a shit. Regardless, one has to do what they can and run out.
Then wash my hands thoroughly and brush and then get in line to bathe, often the number comes in half circle. There are 3-4 taps in the open. One has to wash the floor first and then wash the clothes and then take a shower. Around 7:30 to 8:00 breakfast the porridge or gram is served which we have to wait for in another line. After breakfast I walk for 10-15 minutes. Due to heat, I get drenched with sweat. Wearing th same vest and shirt i sit under the tap. Then I dust off my worn out blanket and sit on it. Due to the crowd the space is very congested hence social distancing is impossible.
Power cuts are very frequent and come back after half an hour or so. To reduce the heat i make myself wet however millions of flies keep hovering over your body. If you stop for 5 to 10 minutes, thousands of flies rest on you.
Around 11:00 pm lunch is served. Lunch consists of water – like daal, and boiled cauliflower, gourd, radish with chapati. We have to stand in line for this as well and then wash the utensils / plates in the line and put them in a separate line. Although it is difficult to swallow, one eats to live. Earlier visitors were allowed which would give access to fresh fruits. But visiting is discontinued due to Coronavirus.
At 12:00, the barrack closes again. The same toilet in the barrack is used by 125-150 captives, with no electricity and the hot breath of sweat-soaked people and the smell of piss and sweat which is worse than hell. I try to study, but the suffocation makes it very difficult. At 3:00 pm the barracks reopen and everyone rushes out but the 45 degree heat doesn’t let you stay outside. People flock towards the shade and this is where I count the minutes and pray Zuhr only after bathing again. At around 5:00 pm, the dinner comes, which is the usual, raw bread and vegetable lentils swallowed to stay alive. At 6:00 pm again, the barrack is closed and the struggle to bathe begins so much that upto 10 people try to take a bath together. After the barrack is closed, then the same struggle to sleep again.
After Maghreb I try to read but the unexplainable suffocation heat and power cuts make it nearly impossible. The entire night mosquitoes attack you. Some people fight, some snore and it feels like a fish market. The entire night is spent sitting and if I do fall asleep I am awakened by someone’s hand or legs (due to proximity). Throughout the night I can only think of 5:00 am when I will get out. I keep wondering what mistake I have made that I am forced to stay away from my kids, wife, mother, brother and sisters when I could be battling coronavirus on the frontline.