We, the undersigned, are a group of academicians, activists, researchers, doctors, lawyers who are deeply concerned about growing communalisation in India, which is adversely affecting people’s livelihoods, right to food, right to health and leading to social and economic boycotts, harassment, physical violence and deep psychological consequences.
In this letter, we would like to draw attention to the completely unacceptable and illegal incarceration of Dr. Kafeel Khan, a paediatrician, who has been imprisoned under the draconian National Security Act (NSA). Dr. Kafeel Khan came into the limelight in August 2017, when a surge of Japanese B encephalitis cases took the lives of hundreds of children, specifically due to the lack of oxygen supply, in Baba Raghav Das Medical college and hospital, Gorakhpur, UP. Dr. Khan, using his personal resources to meet the gap in oxygen supply, and with a team of healthcare personnel, helped to save the lives of several children.
The sudden publicity that he, a Muslim doctor, received inflamed the wrath of the Chief Minister, Adityanath Bisht, who is known mostly for his extremely communalised leadership, instigating hatred and calling for violence on Muslims. At that time Dr. Khan was put into prison and only released after 9 months when the court gave him bail for want of evidence.
On September 22, 2018, Dr Kafeel went to examine, with permission, the ‘mysterious disease’ that had killed 70 children in 45 days at Bahraich district hospital. Even from here he was picked up and kept in illegal custody for 18 hours, after which sections of the IPC were evoked, and he was kept in prison for a month. On January 29, 2020, Dr. Kafeel Khan, was again arrested from Bombay airport.
On March 19, he penned a letter to the Prime Minister requesting he be released to add to the healthcare work force that was already short numbered. On 13th February 2020 NSA charges were put on him. On March 23, 2020, the Supreme Court had, in the context of the Covid19 pandemic, directed that all prisoners, under trial or convicted and jailed for less than 7 years, should be considered for release on a six-week parole.
Dr. Kafeel Khan was the only prisoner who was not released and his parole order was suspended. The message that this incarceration sends out is that anyone who challenges the government will be brutally suppressed. It is important that citizens, particularly patients, understand that when healthcare staff are not allowed to speak out against violations in healthcare delivery, then it is they, the patients, who suffer. Japanese B Encephalitis has taken a deadly toll of lives earlier, and any reasonable government would see a doctor who has expertise in the disease as a vital resource to plan preventive strategies. T
he incident in August 2017, threw light on the pathetic condition of the Gorakhpur hospital which has been allowed to go into dire condition only because of sheer negligence by the government – a story that has been repeating across public hospitals and even more visible in the current Covid19 pandemic. However Dr. Khan continues to be targeted at the behest of the Chief minister.
When is an act of challenging the government a threat under the NSA? Does the fact that he is a Muslim mean that he is less entitled to legal and judicial recourse? If yes, then the words that India is a secular, socialist democracy ring Hollow.
How are individuals supposed to access justice if a Chief Minister takes a personal vendetta and bypasses all judicial orders?
Should the Supreme court not intervene to ensure that its orders are implemented, failing which amounts to contempt of court? Clamping down on freedoms have a way of spreading like a Covid19 pandemic, and before one knows it community spread would have taken place, at which point, solutions are hard to come by.
We therefore urge all citizens to come together to challenge the illegal incarceration of Dr Kafeel Khan, his immediate release and re-instatement in the hospital, so that he can fulfil his obligations as a doctor.
Endorsed by: 1. A.Suneetha, Women and Transgender Organizations Joint Action Committee 2. Adv. Avani Choksi, Advocate, Bangalore 3. Adv. Maitreyi Krishnan, Advocate, Bangalore 4. Adv. Vinay Kooragalaya S, Advocate, Bangalore 5. Adv.Edward Premdas, People’s Forum for Justice and Health, New Delhi 6. Aiman Khan, Researcher and activist, Bengaluru 7. Akash Bhattacharya, Faculty, Azim Premji University. 8. Akhila Vasan, Karnataka Janaarogya Chaluvali 9. Albert Devasahayam SJ 10. Alwyn Dsouza, Indian Social Institute 11. Amita Joseph Advocate 12. Anand Patwardhan 13. Aniruddha Bora, Public Health Resource Network, Odisha 14. Anupama Potluri, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad 15. Aquila Khan, Mumbai Maharashtra 16. Arokia Mary, Director, Citizenship and Advocacy 17. Ashirvad, Centre for Social concern, Bangalore. 18. Bittu K R, Karnataka Janashakti 19. Brinelle Dsouza, TISS and Convenor, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Mumbai 20. Deepa V, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan 21. Deepak Kumar, Public health professional 22. Deepika Joshi, Researcher, Chhattisgarh 23. Dhananjay Ramakrishna Shinde, Secretary, Aam Aadmi Party Maharashtra 24. Dinesh C Mali, Law student 25. Dipa Sinha 26. Dipankar, Former faculty IIT-Bombay, Currently, Chief Scientist, Treelabs Foundation. 27. Dr Abhay Shukla, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan 28. Dr Joseph Xavier, Director, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore 29. Dr Mohanan Pulikodan, Kerala 30. Dr Shakeel, CHARM, Patna 31. Dr Sylvia Karpagam, public health doctor and researcher 32. Dr Vandana Prasad, Community Pediatrician CAMPAIGN AGAINST HATE SPEECH ೇಷದ ಾತುಗಳ ರುದಜಾಂೋಲನ 4 33. Dr. Amar Jesani 34. Dr. Anant Phadke, Pune 35. Dr. Anita Rego, Pearls 4 Development 36. Dr. Antony Kollanur, Retired director, State health Resource Centre, Chattisgarh 37. Dr. Arathi PM, Assistant Professor, School of Indian Legal Thought, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala 38. Dr. B Karthik Navayan, Advocate, Hyderabad 39. Dr. Bijoya Roy, Public health researcher, New Delhi 40. Dr. Gopal Dabade, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, Dharwad, Karnataka 41. Dr. Mira Shiva, public health 42. Dr. Monica Thomas, Neurologist, New Delhi 43. Dr. Muneer Mammy Kutty, Public health, Pune 44. Dr. Peehu Pardeshi, Assistant Professor, TISS Mumbai 45. Dr. Siddharth Acharya, Public Health Dentist 46. Dr. Vasu HV, Gauri Media 47. Dr. Veena Shatrugna, Medical Scientist (Rtd) 48. Drazam Ansari 49. Dunu Roy, Hazards Centre. 50. Dyuti, PhD Researcher, Social Anthropology, University of Sussex 51. Eldred Tellis, Executive Director, Sankalp Rehabilitation Trust 52. Fr Cedric Prakash, Human Rights Defender 53. Fr. Jothi SJ, Kolkata 54. G Ravi , Disabled Rights Activist , Bengaluru, 55. Geeta Seshu, Journalist, co-founder Free Speech Collective 56. Godfrey DLima, Nashik 57. Hema Swaminathan, Associate Professor, Centre for Public Policy. Indian Institute of Management Bangalore 58. Inayat Singh Kakar, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan 59. Jagdish Patel, Occupational Heath activist Dr.Mohan Rao, former professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU. 60. Jashodhara Dasgupta Independent Researcher New Delhi 61. Jyotsna Jha 62. Kalyani Menon-Sen, Feminist Learning Partnerships, Gurgaon 122017 India 63. Kamalakar Duvvuru, Writer 64. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Convenor Jan Swasthya Abhiyan Mumbai 65.Kavitha srinivasan , concerned Individual 67. Kshiraja Krishnan, Bangalore 68. Latha LR 69. Laxman Ganapati, Bangalore 70. Leo Saldanha, Environment Support Group, Bangalore 71. Manavi Atri, Student 72. Nachiket Udupa 73. Nagaragere Ramesh, People’s Democratic Forum 74. Nisha Biswas 75. Persis Ginwalla, Social activist, Ahmedabad 76. Pervin Jehangir, Narmada Bachao Andolan. 77. Prabir KC, Public Health Consultant 78. Prasanna Saligram. Public health researcher, JSA Karnataka 79. Priya Iyer, Citizen 80. R. Srivatsan, Telangana 81. Radha Holla, Bihar 82. Radha Holla, Concerned citizen 83. Ramdas Rao People’s Union for Civil Liberties and All India People’s Forum 84. Ravi Duggal Independent Public Health Researcher and Activist Mumbai 85. Renu Khanna, SAHAJ, Gujarat 86. S. Srinivasan, LOCOST, Vadodara 87. S. Subramanian, Economist, Chennai. 88. Sarojini N, JSA 89. Shiva Shankar, visiting professor, IIT Bombay. 90. Shivsundar, Writer and activist 91. Siddharth Joshi, Researcher 92. Smita Shankar, Hoshangabad 93. Soumitra Ghosh, TISS, Mumbai 94. Sr. Celia, Janapriya Seva Kendra 95. Sudeshna Sengupta 96. Sudha N, Bangalore 97. Suhas Kolhekar, Health Rights Activist with NAPM and JSA 98. Sulakshana Nandi, Public Health Researcher Chhattisgarh 99. Sunita VS Bandewar, Health, Ethics and Law Institute of FMES, MumbaiPune; Vidhayak Trust 100. Surbhi Shrivastava, CEHAT 102. Suvasish De 103. Swarna Bhat, GRAKOOS, Karnataka 104. Swathi Seshadri, Researcher, Bangalore 105. Swathi Shivanand, Independent Researcher, Bangalore 106. Tasqeen Macchiwalla 107. Vinay K. Kamath 108. YK Sandhya, Health Watch Forum UP