Kafeel Khan says he is still awaiting justice, more than 800km from his hometown in Gorakhpur of Uttar Pradesh.
He has yet to get back his job at the BRD Medical College and Hospital, from which he was terminated in 2021.
Kafeel was hailed as a hero by many when he spent money from his pocket and tried to arrange oxygen when the oxygen supply to the hospital fell short owing to non-payment of dues in 2017. It led to the death of several children.
But the police in Uttar Pradesh arrested him for dereliction of duty. The Uttar Pradesh government denied there was a shortfall of oxygen in the hospital.
He now lives in Jaipur with his family. Kafeel’s wife has set up a private clinic in Jaipur, in the same rented apartment where the family — the couple and their two children — lives.
The family survives on the income of his wife, a dentist. He left Uttar Pradesh the same night he was released from prison in September 2020 after the Allahabad High Court nullified his National Security Act-driven imprisonment.
Kafeel, a paediatrician, is again in discussion after the release of Shah Rukh Khan’s Jawan where among many stories is one of a doctor who is arrested despite her best efforts to save children in a hospital ward. Here, too, the children die because of lack of oxygen.
The doctor in the film is a woman. Although the film does not say that the story being narrated is that of Kafeel, the resemblance of what is shown in the movie to what happened with Kafeel has again sparked discussions, however, muted.
Kafeel has yet to watch Jawan but he has heard about the story of a doctor who lands in a similar situation to him and is arrested. He said he wanted to thank the film’s director, producer and Shah Rukh Khan for narrating the story.
But the similarity between the doctor in the movie — played by Sanya Malhotra — and Kafeel ends there, he said.
“In the movie, the doctor gets justice, I am yet to get that. I am staying away from my hometown, from the place where I was born,” he said.
In the movie, the health secretary admits the doctor’s innocence later.
“I was earning Rs 87,000 when I was working in the hospital. I do not earn anything now,” said Kafeel, who now volunteers for the organisation Doctors on Road, which conducts health camps in various states.
“I have not watched the film yet, but I will see it. Many people have messaged me saying they felt that the story of the doctor in the film is my story,” he said over the phone earlier this week.
Kafeel said that in the movie the doctor asks her juniors to use Ambu bags, a device that provides respiratory support to people during an emergency.
“I had also asked my juniors to use Ambu bags when the hospital ran out of oxygen,” Kafeel said, adding that he had narrated this in his book The Gorakhpur Hospital Tragedy.
“My kids want to watch the movie. I will go with my family soon,” he said.
Kafeel challenged the Uttar Pradesh government’s order to terminate him at Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench in January 2022.
“Sometimes judges recuse themselves of the case, sometimes the government lawyer asks for an extension of date. The matter is still dragging,” he said.