How Gorakhpur Doctor Kafeel Khan’s Hate Speech Threatened the National Security of India

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Dr Kafeel Khan has recently been released from the Mathura Jail after the Allahabad HC sets aside his detention order by the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Cases Against Kafeel Khan & his Arrests

In 2016, Dr Kafeel Khan joined as a lecturer at Baba Raghav Das Medical College, Gorakhpur. An uncertain event occurred in August 2017, when 63 children died at B.R.D Medical College. The reason being the shortage in the supply of liquid oxygen. He got suspended & arrested along with 8 other doctors for offences under the Indian Penal Code & Prevention of Corruption Act. However, subsequently, he wasn’t found guilty of medical negligence & was also not involved in any corruption. Although he got a clean chit, he again came into limelight after he delivered his anti-CAA speech at AMU last December. Resultantly, the very next day a criminal case was lodged against him. He was then arrested for offences under IPC on 29 Jan 2020.

His Speech at AMU

After the passing of the Citizenship Amendment Act, protests broke out across India, a few of them violent. Kafeel Khan got arrested for allegedly delivering a provocative speech. He was arrested by the UP Special Task Force at Mumbai Airport on 29 Jan 2020. The major offence is hurting the religious sentiments of people (Sec 153A of IPC). Even after being granted bail, he was slapped with the National Security Act (NSA).

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On 12 Dec 2019, he gave a speech against CAA at Aligarh Muslim University. A lot of inflammatory remarks were given by him among 600 students. He made some objectionable commands against Amit Shah, Union Home Minister. He stated, ‘Motabhai is teaching us to be Hindus and Muslims but not human beings’.

CAA provides that people facing religious persecution in countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan will no longer be treated as illegal immigrants. The Act recognized members of only 6 communities, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain & Christian. It doesn’t include Muslims of those countries. While many were protesting against the broad welcome of other groups, some were objecting to the exclusion of Muslims. Kafeel Khan’s arrest led to a huge controversy. Many believed that he was being framed by the UP government. His arrest was the anger of the Yogi-led UP government because of his release in the death of children.

Protests After his Arrest

Soon after his arrest, students of Jamia Millia Islamia protested for his release at UP Bhawan. They were detained by the Delhi Police. Kafeel Khan was mentally and physically tortured. He wasn’t given food for 5 days straight. He was beaten badly that he can’t even sit. He was also kept in a small barrack with more than 150 prisoners, even at the time of COVID- 19. His life in prison became insufferable.

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His wife questioned his arrest under the NSA. She even said that Kafeel is been tortured because he raises questions to the UP government about the death of 70 children. She adds, he has always worked selflessly for people, how can he be a threat to the nation?

Moreover, his arrest became a political ground for many leaders. Many leaders including politicians of the Congress party & AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi came to his defence. However, it was more of a political move than a sympathetic one. His arrest was being used by leaders to gain support in UP by uniting Muslims against the BJP government. Even after his release, Congress Leader Priyanka Vadra is trying hard to get her hands over UP Elections 2022. And what else can be the best agenda than Kafeel Khan to use against the Yogi Government. Though Kafeel khan has denied the fact of joining a political party. His only motive is to serve people & work for flood-affected people of Assam, Bihar.

Hate Speech or Free Speech?

Kafeel was arrested for delivering a hate speech, so it becomes important to understand the difference between hate speech & freedom of speech  (free speech). Our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a). Everyone has the liberty to express his thoughts, views & opinions. But with free speech comes restrictions. Security of the State, public order, incitement to an offence are grounds to name a few.

Kafeel’s speech was said to be a hate speech. But the question is, does living in a democratic world mean one cannot abuse & criticize anyone? Hate speech is a type of speech that triggers hate & violence towards a group based on race, religion, etc. Freedom of speech comes with the right to criticize as well. Everyone is free to criticize the policies of the government. 130 billion people are living in this country & it’s likely there would be 130 billion views.

The Opinion of the Court

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Being in prison for 8 months, Allahabad High Court finally released Dr Kafeel Khan. However, it was repeatedly contended that he gathered 600 students at AMU to provoke them & spread violence. That the contents of his speech disturbed the peace & tranquillity. But the Court, after going through Kafeel’s entire speech, found that his speech wasn’t promoting hate/violence. It does not threaten the peace & tranquillity of Aligarh rather calls for national unity & integrity. The court pointed out that the action of the State has violated his liberty. His detention was found illegal & the court immediately ordered his release.

Conclusion

There’s a very thin line between hate speech & free speech. Speech that provokes violence among people should be restricted. But the speech that merely offends a person is not harmful, but offensive. Lots of protests took place against CAA, and some were very violent as well. But it cannot be held that Kafeel was responsible and his speech was the cause. His speech got highlighted & he became the victim because of a political conspiracy. It is hard to deliver a speech without offending someone. And delivering in a country which has diverse beliefs, communities are near to impossible.


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