Dr Kafeel Khan who managed to save the lives of a number of children in the last August’s Gorakhpur hopital tragedy where 63 children died within a span of five days for a lack of supply of oxygen cylinders has written a heart rending letter from jail. Dr Kafeel Ahmed Khan is lodged in jail without bail for the last seven months. In the midst of the Gorakhpur tragedy, Dr Kafeel Khan at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College was hailed a hero saving as many children as possible.
Dr Kafeel Ahmed Khan, the head of the encephalitis ward and a paediatrician, managed to save many lives and the parents in the hospital had said that had it not been for Khan’s work, the number of deaths could have been higher.
On the night of August 10, the central oxygen pipeline in the college premises started beeping, indicating low supply of the gas. The doctors and hospital staff knew that the supply could be maintained through emergency cylinders, but only for two hours. They did not know what to do after that.
Khan knew that uninterrupted oxygen to critically ill children, was the only life-saving medicine, to save lives of those suffering from encephalitis.
A few called up the supplier, only to be told that they will send fresh supplies only after clearance of their dues. Refusal from other suppliers caused more panic in the hospital. But Khan did not lose hope. He drove two hospitals employees in his car to his friend’s private nursing home and borrowed three oxygen cylinders.
Before leaving the hospital, he had given standing instructions to junior doctors on duty and paramedical staff to keep pumping Ambu bags if the oxygen supply further reduced in the central pipeline.
Khan loaded the three cylinders in his car and rushed back to BRD Hospital. However, the oxygen content in the cylinders was enough only to provide half an hour of supply in the central pipeline. Khan left the hospital again and made a round to other nursing homes known to him.
He collected as many as 12 oxygen cylinders. The child specialist made four trips to the hospital to ferry these cylinders for children admitted in his ward.
When he returned to the hospital, he was informed that a local supplier was ready to supply oxygen cylinders on cash payment. Dr Khan gave his ATM debit card to one of his employees and withdrew Rs 10,000 to bring in more oxygen for patients. He also paid for diesel and other expenses to truck drivers who brought fresh supplies from Faizabad.
“While other doctors gave up hope, Dr Khan managed the situation well by arranging oxygen cylinders from private nursing homes. He saved many lives by his efforts and presence of mind,” said Gaurav Tripathi, an eyewitness.
However, this did not make Kafeel Khan a hero in the eyes of the administration. Khan was booked for criminal conspiracy, attempt to commit culpable homicide and criminal breach of trust by public servant, among others. The police filed the chargesheet in November 2017.
Lodged in a Gorakhpur jail since September 2, 2017, Dr Kafeel Khan in his letter alleged that he and others are being made “scapegoats” for an “administrative failure” at a higher level.
In the letter from jail, dated April 18 and released to the media by Khan’s wife Shabista at the Press Club of India on Saturday, the paediatrician wrote that he was on sanctioned leave on August 10, 2017, when news reached him about the deaths, and he “rushed” to the hospital.
“The moment I got that WhatsApp message on that fateful night, I did everything a doctor, a father, a responsible citizen of India would/should do… I tried to save each and every life which was in danger due to sudden stoppage of liquid oxygen,” he wrote.
Khan claimed, “The guilty are DM Gorakhpur, DGME (director general of medical education), Principal Secretary Health Education for not taking any action against 14 reminders sent by Pushpa Sales for its Rs 68 lakh dues. It was a total administrative failure at higher level, they did not realise the gravity and just to save themselves, they made us scapegoat and put us behind the bars…”
He claims that his life “turned upside down” when UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath visited him the following day.
“He asked, ‘so you are Dr Kafeel? You arranged cylinders?’ I was…yes sir. He got angry — ‘so you think by arranging cylinders, you became hero, I will see it’,” Khan wrote. “Yogi-ji was angry because…how this incident came into the media.” He stated that he “did not inform any mediaperson that night”, and that they were “already there” when he reached the hospital.
Thereafter, he wrote, his family was “hounded” and “tortured”, forcing him to surrender.
At the press conference, Shabista said, “My husband has done no crime. If he wanted, he could have stayed home (during the emergency last August). On many occasions he has himself paid for supplies such as masks, gloves and sanitisers. The deaths were a result of administrative failure…”
Ravi Nair, executive director of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, who also addressed the press conference, said all offences Khan and others were charged with are bailable.
Here is the full text of Dr Kafeel Khan’s letter.
8 MS, In Jail Wiithout Bail !
AM I Really Guilty?
I cherished each moment. Every scene is still alive it’s happening right now in front of my eyes even after 3 months of unbearable torture humiliation behind the bars sometime I ask myself- Am I really guilty? and answer pop out from core of my heart no no a big no.
The moment I got that WhatsApp message on that fateful 10th August 17, I did everything a doctor a father a RESPONSIBLE CITIZEN OF INDIA would/should do. I tried to save each and every life who was on danger due to sudden stoppage of liquid oxygen. I did my level best to save those innocent kids who were dying because of lack of oxygen.
I frantically called everyone. I begged I ran I drove I ordered I yelled, I screamed, I consoled, I consulted, I spent, I borrowed and I did all what is humanly possible.
I called my head of the department, my colleagues principal BRD acting principal BRD, DM GKP AD health GKP, CMS/SIC GKP,CMS/SIC BRD MC, informed them about the grave situation arising due to sudden stoppage of liquid oxygen and how kids’ life are in danger due to lack of oxygen supply. [I have all the call records].
I begged gas suppliers MODi, GAS, BALA Ji, imperial GAS, Mayur Gas Agency, all the hospital around BRD Medical College after arranging their contact number for Jumbo cylinders to save hundreds of life of innocent kids.
I paid them in cash and assured them will pay rest on delivery. [We arranged 250 cylinders per day until liquid oxygen tank arrived, one jumbo cylinder cost 216.]
I ran from one cubicle to another, from ward 100 ward 12, to emergency ward, from some point of oxygen supply to the point of delivery to make sure uninterrupted oxygen delivery. I drove to get cylinders from nearby hospitals in my car, when I realised that was not sufficient. I drove to SSB, met its DIG and explained him the unprecedented situation, their response was very quick and supportive, they are arranged a big truck and group of soldiers to carry empty cylinder from BRD to Gas Agency, filled it, brought to BRD and ran again to refill. They worked for continuous 48 hours. Their spirits boosted ours. I salute SSB and very thankful for their help. Jai Hind.
I spoke to my junior/senior doctors, I ordered my staff. Don’t get panic, don’t be disheartened, don’t get angry with agitated parents, don’t take break, we had to work as a team to treat efficiently to save every life.
I consoled grieving parents who have lost their kids. I counseled those agitated parents who were getting angry after losing their kids. There was so much chaos, I explained them – liquid 02 is finished but we are trying to make it with jumbo oxygen cylinders.
I yelled/screamed to everyone to focus on saving life. I cried, actually everyone in the team cried to see the havoc created by the administrative failures to pay the dues to liquid oxygen suppliers, resulting in such a grave situation.
We did not stop trying until liquid oxygen tank arrived, around 1.30 am on 13.8.17
But my life turned upside down when CM Yogi Maharaj arrived next morning on 13.8.17. He asked – so you are Dr. Kafeel, you arranged cylinders? I was like- yes sir. He got angry- so you think by arranging cylinders, you became hero .. I will see it.
Yogiji was angry because how this incident came into media. I swear to my Allah I did not inform any media person that night. They were already there that night itself. The police started coming to our home, howling, threatening, torturing my family. People warned they would kill me in an encounter. My family, my mother, my wife and my kids were so scared that I do not have words.
I surrendered to save my life from the humiliation, misery thinking when I have not done anything wrong, I should get justice.
But number of days passed, weeks, months from August, 17 to April, 18. Holi came, dashehra came, Christmas came, diwali came, new year came every date- Traikh pe tarikh- hoping will get bail. Then we realized that judiciary is also working under pressure. [even they acknowledged the same.]
Sleeping on floor with more than 150 prisoners in a cramped barrack with millions of mosquitos in night and thousands of flies at day. Trying to swallow food to live, bath half naked in the field and shit in a toilet with a broken door, waiting for Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday to meet my family.
Life is hell miserable not only for me but for my whole family. They had to run from one pillar to another, from police station to court, from Gorakhpur to Allahabad, in hope of justice. But all in vain. My daughter whose first birthday I could not celebrate is now 1 year and 7 months old. As a pediatrician it is very painful disheartening not to see his child grow. As a pediatrician I used to be tough parents, importance of milestones and myself don’t know when my daughter started walking sleeping.
So now again that question haunts me- Am I really guilty? No No- No .
I was on leave on 10th August 2017 [its sanctioned by my HOD]. I still rushed to do my duties- is that wrong? They made me head of the department vice chancellor of BRD, 100 ward prabhari. As I am junior most doctor and joined only on 88.16 as a permanent employee. I was working as Nodal officer NRHM, and lecturer pediatrics whose work is to teach students and treat kids.
I was nowhere involved with purchase, tender, order, maintenance supply and payment of liquid oxygen/ jumbo cylinders. If PUSHPA Sales stopped liquid 02 supply, how am I responsible for that. Even nonmedico could tell doctor work is to treat not to buy oxygen. The guilty are DM GKP, DGME Medical education, Principal , secretary, Healm education for not taking any action against 14 reminders sent by PUSHPA sales for his 68 lacs dues. It was total administrative failure at higher levels. they did not realize the gravity, just to save themselves, they made us scapegoats (bali ka Bakra) and put us behind the bars. When Manish got bail, we saw some light that may be now we would also get justice and come out to live with my family and serve again. But no we are still waiting .
Supreme court says, Bail is the right prison is the exception. This is a classic example of miscarriage of justice.
I hope time would come I will be free with my family with my daughter. Truth would come out, justice would be served.
A helpless broken hearted father/husband/brother/ son/friend
Dr. Kafeel Khan
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