Dr Kafeel Khan is, without doubt, one of the most egregious victims of majoritarianism in contemporary India, where a vengeful state unleashes the blunt instruments at its disposal to “teach a lesson” to a member of the minorities—and is cheered on in this naked display of brutality.
The paediatrician’s cardinal sin was to flag the lack of oxygen cylinders in a hospital in Gorakhpur, the constituency represented in the Lok Sabha for 19 years by the current Uttar Pradesh chief minister ‘Yogi’ Adityanath, which resulted in the deaths of dozens of children in 2017.
Initially, Dr Khan was a minor media hero for spending out of his pocket to buy cylinders to save the children because the UP government hadn’t cleared the supplier’s bills.
Next thing he knew, Dr Khan was charged with dereliction of duty, arrested, and scapegoated. Jailed for 9 months, he was acquitted in September 2019 but re-arrested in December for a inflammatory speech. Released on bail, he was arrested again under the National Security Act—and his custody extended again.
On September 1, the Allahabad High Court threw out the charges and ordered his immediate release. But the reaction to the court judgment is instructive of the state of Indian media.
Dainik Jagran, one of the key force-multipliers of the sangh parivar in the Hindi heartland, did not feature the news of the court order or his release from jail for two days in a row in its so-called “national edition”.
With Adityanath positioning himself as a potential successor to Narendra Modi, and spending millions in advertising his “achievements” which fly in the face of ground reality, English newspapers are decidedly more circumspect.
Barring the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald, no newspaper even tries to connect the dots between Gorakhpur, Adityanath and Dr Khan in this vindictive and conspicuous miscarriage of justice.
“There is reason to conclude that Dr Khan was persecuted because Yogi Adityanath had a personal grudge against him,” reads a line the DH editorial.
The Hyderabad-based Deccan Chronicle, which appears in the North as The Asian Age, at least has the courage to take Yogi Adityanath’s name even if only in passing.
But The Hindu cannot name “Aditya Yoginath“, as Modi called Yogi Adityanath recently.
The Times of India cannot name “Aditya Yoginath“.
The Telegraph cannot name “Aditya Yoginath“.
The Indian Express cannot name “Aditya Yoginath“.
The Tribune cannot name “Aditya Yoginath“.
And The New Indian Express cannot name “Aditya Yoginath“.
The nation’s top two English dailies The Times of India and Hindustan Times are still to find the time and the space to make their point-of-view on Dr Kafeel Khan public.
By tip-toeing around Yogi Adityanath’s personal stake in Dr Kafeel Khan’s serial troubles—ruining his career, family life, reputation and more—and by ascribing the court judgment to the “UP government” or “UP administration”, who are the papers kidding?
And who are they humouring?
Serious newspapers are big on “processes”, not personalities. But that’s a vacuous position to take even if the HC judgment does not mention Yogi Adityanath by name.
Which self-respecting media outlet can even pretend that India’s most populous state has anything called a “system” in place, which decided to punish Dr Kafeel Khan?