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Statement demanding justice for Dr Kafeel Khan

This letter endorsed by major health networks such as the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan and Medico Friend Circle, over 80 medical professionals from across the country, as well as 150 other public health researchers, activists, Civil Society Organisations, feminists and other concerned individuals was sent to the Chief Minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, seeking justice for Dr Kafeel Khan.

We, the undersigned medical professionals, public health professionals and health organisations/networks demand justice for Dr. Kafeel Khan – his immediate release and quashing of false charges against him.

The horrific deaths of over 70 children at the Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College in August 2017 in Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh shocked the country and public consciousness. While these deaths were very clearly as a result of the serious systemic gaps in the public health infrastructure and administrative breakdown of healthcare delivery in the hospital, the unfortunate response to the deaths was the wrongful prosecution of Dr. Kafeel Khan from BRD medical college and hospital. Dr. Kafeel Khan, who performed his role as an ethical medical professional and undertook immediate steps to manage the grave situation of the poor infrastructure and care, including the lack of oxygen cylinders, was instead incarcerated. His efforts at rendering his duties as a doctor and as a public servant in responding to the emergency despite the challenges of the poor infrastructure and care in the hospital were not acknowledged and instead penalised.

It is extremely distressing that since August 2017, Dr. Kafeel Khan has been wrongfully charged with ‘attempt to murder’ and has been languishing in jail. His pleas of being innocent and being falsely accused have been ignored by the State and Judiciary.

He continues to struggle for justice, which he has been denied; he continues to be denied bail. His prosecution is not only an act of injustice to him, but also to the many children and families whom Dr. Kafeel Khan tried to help at that time of distress.

Dr.Kafeel Khan had fully cooperated with the police and had surrendered himself with faith in the legal system, and with the hope of a fair and due process of law.

We demand that Dr. Kafeel Khan be released immediately, and that urgent efforts be made to ensure strengthened health care for children and all others accessing health care from public health institutions including the BRD Medical College and Hospital so that such a tragedy does not recur – a meaningful step towards justice for the affected families of the Gorakhpur tragedy as well as the medical professional who sincerely tried to help despite the odds.

We demand that:

  • Bail be granted to Dr. Kafeel Khan immediately and all the false charges against Dr. Kafeel Khan be dropped.
  • Dr. Kafeel and other health care providers and frontline workers like him who served their duties with utmost professionalism and nobility should be accorded due respect. The State should formally acknowledge their diligence and service towards public health care.
  • An independent judicial enquiry committee be established that includes public health experts to look into the systemic failures and events that led to the deaths; to give concrete recommendations regarding measures to strengthen the public health system delivery in the state for child care and other health needs.
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