Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. The State of Uttar Pradesh thrust greatness upon Dr Kafeel Khan who has gracefully accepted it.
Dr Khan was just a doctor with a Dil Chahta Hai goatee and the usual warts government doctors accumulate early in their career in the great mofussil of the plains. On his watch, scores of children had died simply because the oxygen supplier cut off supply owing to lack of payments. This happened in Gorakhpur, the home constituency of Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister.
The state accused Dr Khan of taking away oxygen cylinders to his own private hospital. The charge could not be proved but Dr Kafeel Khan did indulge in what is called private practice. He would have remained an unsung doctor or remembered for the tragedy at the BRD Medical College Hospital, Gorakhpur.
Since he was Muslim and the Chief Minister of the state was the mahant of the Gorakhnath math, the Gorakhpur tragedy quickly turned communal. For one side, Dr Khan was the victim of the state's bias against the minority community and, for the other, he was the villain playing the victim card. Well, he did become a celebrity who was ready to treat patients in faraway lands if it helped him rescue his reputation.
After spending seven months in prison, Dr Kafeel Khan is a free man. His goatee has turned into a flowing beard. (Photo: Twitter/Yogendra Yadav)
The problem is he spoke on occasions and the state detested speech. He ended up speaking at a protest site full of people predominantly Muslim decrying the state for the Citizenship Amendment Bill. That's when the state came down with disproportionately heavy hands and put him in jail under the dreaded National Security Act, making getting bail difficult.
So after spending seven months in prison, he is a free man, thanks to the Allahabad High Court. His goatee has turned into a flowing beard. Stubborn like a child, his own words, Dr Kafeel Khan has been an icon of resistance since his imprisonment. The man had neither an ideology nor a grievance worthy of making him an icon. Today he has both and worth their weight in gold.
He is not as fiery a speaker like Sharjeel Usmani, he is not a troublemaker like Sharjeel Imam, he is not left-woke like the Pinjra Tod activists. These people are in jail like Kafeel Khan for their speeches during the CAA protests. They will eventually come out because the charges against them, like in Dr Khan's case, are flimsy and centre around their utterances at protest meetings. They will have a career in politics. Dr Kafeel Khan had chosen a career in medicine. Fate did not push him into politics; the state did.
He will be much sought-after in speaking circles and protest meetings, where he will retell the story of how he was torn away from his children because the state wanted to suppress speech. He will continue to serve the country with his medical skills and hone his speaking skills. He will do more of what he was punished for doing. The wheel of justice turns, burns, slow. Your constitution is the oxygen it needs. For Dr Kafeel Khan, it came from Allahabad via Mathura Central Jail.