On the eve of India’s 74rd Independence Day, the Yogi Adityanath government of Uttar Pradesh extended the incarceration of Gorakhpur doctor Dr Kafeel Khan under the National Security Act by another three months to November 2020.

UP’s department of home extended the detention under NSA for the third time increasing his period of imprisonment under the draconian law to 9 months.

This arbitrary order of the state government dated August 4 mysteriously surfaced on August 14, three days after the Supreme Court on August 11 directed the Allahabad High court to pass orders on Dr Kafeel’s Habeas Corpus petition.

On a petition filed by Dr Kafeel Khan’s mother Nuzhat Perween, a three-judge apex court bench headed by Chief Justice S A Bobde passed the order stating:

“We request the High Court to dispose of the matter peremptorily as early as possible, having regard to the fact that it involves the liberty of the applicant, within a period of fifteen days from the date the parties appear before it.”

Khan’s 65-year old mother had filed the Habeas Corpus petition on February 28. It has been heard twice in the Supreme Court and 15 times in the Allahabad High Court.

Speaking to the media on the eve of Independence Day Khan’s wife , Dr Shabista Khan asked why her husband was being kept in jail. “What is his crime?”, she asked.

“When NSA was imposed against him I had asked the government what kind of security threat they had felt from my doctor husband who travels round the country to hold medical camps for the poor and underprivileged.”

She has appealed to every right-thinking citizen to raise their voice against the arrest of Dr Khan on what she described as baseless charges.

The intention of the state government seems to be to keep the doctor behind bars on one pretext or the other.

The ordeal of the then junior most doctor at the the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NNICU) at the BRD Medical College hospital began in August 2017.

Due to the shortage of piped oxygen supply on August 10, 11 &12, 2017 around 70 infants had died in the NNICU unit. Dr Khan’s major ‘crime’ was to have taken the initiative to arrange for oxygen cylinders from outside to save as many lives as he could in an effort that brought him positive media coverage and made him a hero overnight.

On August 26, he was suspended on multiple charges including alleged criminal neglect causing death of more than a dozen children due to shortage of oxygen.

On September 2, 2017, the Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force (STF) arrested him for on August 10, 2017.

After his bail application was rejected on six different occasions, Khan was granted bail by the Allahabad High Court on April 25, 2018, after the court found no evidence of medical negligence against him.

On May 10, 2019 a Supreme Court division bench comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Indira Banerjee ordered the timely conclusion of the enquiry regarding Khan’s suspension and directed that his dues over more than Rs 10 lakh be cleared.

Earlier on March 7, 2019 the Allahabad High Court had similarly asked the CM Yogi Adityanath government to speedily conclude the departmental inquiry against Dr Khan within 90 days.

The Supreme Court had upheld this order of the Allahabad High court. The court also asked Khan to approach the apex court in July 2019 if the state government did not follow the order of the Allahabad High court in letter and spirit.

Dr Khan shared the UP government departmental enquiry report submitted on September 27 with the media absolving him of all major charges of medical negligence and corruption.

Interestingly, the Principal Secretary (Medical Education) Rajneesh Dube called a press conference on October 3, 2019 to claim that Dr Kafeel was misleading the media and ordered a fresh probe against him.

Despite the High Court and Supreme Court orders to pay Khan’s dues and reinstate him the Yogi government repeatedly failed on both counts and finally rearrested him and imposed NSA when a court ordered his release.

This time he had delivered a 23-minute speech at the Aligarh Muslim University on December 12, 2019. In his address he had shared his fear of the misuse of the Citizenship Amendment Act and National Register of Citizens to harass genuine citizens in the country.

Activist Yogendra Yadav was also present at the meeting as a co-speaker and confirms that Dr Kafeel Khan had said nothing to threaten the security of the country.

The UP government however, was quick to book him for promoting enmity between two different groups and arrested him at the Mumbai airport on January 29, 2020, brought him to Aligarh and then sent him to Mathura jail.

He was granted bail by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Karun Singh on February 10, 2020. The UP government delayed his release until the Aligarh District Magistrate Chandra Bhushan Singh imposed NSA against him on February 13 that has since been extended twice.

Adding to the political dimension to Dr Khan’s imprisonment is the Uttar Pradesh Congress party decision to launch a three-week-long campaign for his release.

The campaign for his release was monitored by the head of the UP Congress minority cell, Shahnawaz Alam who himself is facing charges for allegedly taking part in Lucknow’s anti-CAA protest.After spending 16 days in jail, he was recently granted bail by the Lucknow session court.

During July 22 to August 12 2020, a door-to-door signature campaign was launched all over the state. People signed memorandums and made videos demanding the release of Dr Kafeel Khan.

Elaborating on the plan Alam said that the Congress party plans to mobilize support and build pressure on the government.

Describing Khan as “one of the most prominent voices from the minority community in UP” Alam said that he was paying the price for daring to speak against injustice, the reign of terror, and institutional corruption rampant in UP. The Yogi government, he said, wants to crush the voice of Muslims.

During the campaign over one lakh Twitter posts were written in less than four hours demanding the release of Khan along with other “political prisoners”.

Turning a deaf ear to the campaign, Supreme Court orders and voices of the common people for Khan’s release, the UP government has instead increased his detention by another three months.