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“I never told my family about the physical torture in jail in my letters. I always said I am fine because I didn’t want to give them more pain,” said Dr Kafeel Khan, choked with emotion. In a conversation with The Quint, Gorakhpur-based Dr Kafeel Khan opened up on what led to his imprisonment, and the travails of being in jail.
A free man again, Dr Khan said he was thankful for the ‘landmark’ judgment by Allahabad High Court on 1 September, which quashed his detention under the National Security Act (NSA) and demanded his immediate release.
He stated that it also sets a precedent for other people who have been stuck in jail under the draconian Act.
‘Nibbled On My Clothes to Quell My Hunger’
“They stripped me, beat me up asked weird questions,” said Dr Kafeel Khan, narrating his ordeal.
“I dried the roti and ate part of it every day. I couldn’t urinate because there was no water. I used to nibble on my clothes to quell my hunger.”Dr Kafeel Khan
On some days, he said he even screamed like a “patient” in his cell because of hunger, when he felt his intestines cramping. Amid all this, as time passed and lockdown was imposed, he could not even meet his family for months.
He also added that the jail, which comes under the jurisdiction of the Uttar Pradesh government needs proper care, as nearly 150 inmates were lodged in one barrack, leaving no room for social distancing.
Dr Khan said, “I won’t bend, and I am not going to leave Uttar Pradesh. Through The Quint I want to tell people that if you are right, if you have not done anything wrong, then look in the eyes of other people and say that ‘yes, I have not done anything wrong.’”
In his case, it is also noteworthy that he gave his speech at an anti-CAA protest in December last year, and two months later in February this year, the NSA charges were slapped against him, days after he got bail.
Moreover, the court noted that the speech was a “call for national unity,” and “did not promote any violence or hatred”. The court had also stated that the District Magistrate did selective reading of the speech while mentioning the entire speech in the order itself.
Dr Kafeel Khan Gives 3 Reasons Behind Arrest
The grounds on which he was arrested were questionable since the beginning. He also thinks there were three reasons behind his arrest and jail.
Ever since the BRD medical tragedy happened, Dr Khan has time and again demanded justice for over 60 children who lost their lives. Back then, the Adityanath-led government in UP had accused him of medical negligence and corruption. He spent nine months in jail. Two years later, in 2019, he was absolved of all the charges.
Second reason, he said was another enquiry that was initiated against him for “spreading misinformation” about getting a clean chit in the case. But since nothing was found that could implicate him, he believes his speech in December was brought into focus.
And third, he said that through his numerous medical camps, where he met and treated a lot of people he “exposed the conditions of the country’s healthcare system”.
Talking about the legal hiccups in the case, Dr Khan said not only was there a problem with transfer of files but also getting a lawyer for his case was very difficult.
On Priyanka Gandhi’s Help
Dr Khan pointed out that several attempts were made for 12 hours since the court order was passed so he could be prevented from being released.
Out of fear for his and the family’s safety, Dr Khan did not immediately go back to his hometown, Gorakhpur. He was also apprehensive when he saw the UP police outside jail.
That’s when his family got a call from senior Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi, offering a way out. With her help, they managed to travel from Mathura to Bharatpur, bordering Rajasthan.
“In that moment, it was a help. We also didn’t know what else to do so we came from there to Jaipur at night. But I want to rubbish all rumours. Neither am I joining any political party, nor do I have any intention of doing so.”Dr Kafeel Khan
In his letters from jail, Dr Khan repeatedly mentioned his desire to help people amid the coronavirus pandemic. As he copes with the trauma and losing 7 months of his life away from his family, he said that as much as he wants to spend time with them, he also wants to help people in the flood-affected areas.
With a smile on his face, he added, “If nothing, I want to be a volunteer for vaccine research. I am ready to give my body as a guinea pig.”