Dr Kafeel Khan has been exonerated in a report prepared by a senior IAS officer who was asked to investigate the matter. The Allahabad High Court had already granted him bail last year. The Indian Medical Council, too, came out in his support, though a bit late. Yet, it was good to see that it woke up at last.
In Poorvanchal, every year, hundreds of children die due to Japanese brain fever. In August-September of 2017, over 60 children died at Gorakhpur Medical College due to lack of oxygen cylinders in the hospital. Dr Kafeel Khan, who was in charge of the unit maintaining oxygen cylinders, is basically a paediatrician, who took care of all the children coming to him. He was hailed as a hero, but soon the matter was turned into a communal issue, which suits those in power, to hide their inefficiency and failure. With the help of an absolutely thuggish media, rumours and conspiracy theories, built up around Dr Kafeel Khan, were floated. Instead of an inefficient political leadership, it was a doctor who was blamed for the deaths.
The police arrested him, humiliated him and kept him in jail for almost nine month, before the Allahabad High Court gave him bail.Now, Dr Kafeel Khan has been given a clean chit by the government itself. The question arises - who will return him those two years of horror, which he and his family went through? Dr Kafeel Khan's hounding by the media, making him out as the biggest villain, and the harassment of his family is the biggest scandal of our time and must be investigated. Who authorised media to conduct a pre-fixed trial of Dr Khan and virtually create a threat to his life? With regular stories and narrative being built by the media, and circulating through WhatsApp and other social media platforms, the media, or rather the PR agencies of the ruling party, made him a criminal or a terrorist, prone to face violence by the people. Have we not learnt anything from mob-lynching and how rumours work in India in motivated killings of the innocent? Therefore, it is time to call to account all those who made a mockery of media ethics and reported mischievously on this incident. All of them must be made to explain.
It is time for the Press Council, the Editors’ Guild, the Information and Broadcasting ministry, and even the courts, to look into the affairs of the electronic media and the venom they have been spreading. Shouldn't those media houses apologise for their slanderous campaign against Dr Kafeel Khan?It is not him alone - media today has become the biggest tool to spread falsehood, create fear and intimidate people. It is not the social media, but electronic media or mainstream media, which needs a resounding slap on its face for spreading all this poison which threatens the unity and integrity of the country. Will we see some hard hitting editorials against these party spokespersons sitting in the TV channels, who virtually abused Dr Kafeel Khan? No need to make him a hero, but as a citizen of India, he has his rights and one of them is the right to defend himself from such slander.
It is time that news media and channels develop strong media ethics so that anyone, who is wronged, can file a complaint and seek, not merely an apology, but compensation too. Let Dr Kafeel Khan file defamation charges against these channels, who sat on judgement before any court could do so.
We know the government will do nothing, as all news channels have been 'Modified', the Editors’ Guild has no power and the Press Council is basically an extended body of the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting. Maybe, the courts can take note of it and issue guidelines. It is essential because, in the name of media freedom, attempts are being made to influence public opinion, intimidate individuals and influence the courts, too. If the news anchors are allowed to sit on judgement, then the result will be many more tragedies like Dr Kafeel Khan. We need to seriously ponder over it. All those anchors, who lied and played political games by becoming pawns in the hands of their political masters or sponsors, must be made accountable and must clarify their position. Their editors must respond and a mere apology on the last page or in a small scroll will not work. Accountability must be fixed and Dr Kafeel Khan must be reinstated honourably as well as compensated fully. He needs to seek accountability from those who wanted to trap him and finish his career, to fulfil their ulterior political motives.
Let us hope that those in power do not resort to further witch-hunt to deny Dr Kafeel Khan his well-deserved due.