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India: How a Muslim doctor was incarcerated for raising his voice | India News



An Indian doctor who was jailed for more than seven months for criticising a controversial citizenship law was released on Tuesday night after a court in northern Uttar Pradesh state called his incarceration “illegal”.

Dr Kafeel Khan told Al Jazeera he was physically tortured while in captivity, which included him being stripped of his clothes and beaten and deprived of food for days.

“It was very hard for the whole family. My 65-year-old mother was forced to visit the courts during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

Dr Khan was arrested in January for a speech made a month earlier that authorities in Uttar Pradesh (UP), governed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), deemed incendiary. He was later charged under the National Security Act (NSA), which stipulates that a person can be held without charge for a year.

His speech focused on major issues facing the country of 1.4 billion people such as malnutrition, lack of health facilities and unemployment crisis.

They really wanted to break me this time.

Dr Kafeel Khan

But Khan’s criticism of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which bans Muslims from neighbouring South Asian countries from gaining Indian nationality, seemed to have earned him the government’s ire.

The passing of the law in December sparked nationwide protests led mostly by Muslims – India’s largest minority, numbering nearly 200 million.

‘Targeted because of his religion’

Yogi Adityanath, who is UP’s chief minister and known for his anti-Muslim statements, ordered a crackdown against anti-CAA protests in the northern state. More than two dozens Muslims were killed in police action that was condemned by Amnesty International India.

“Who will speak up in this time of atrocities, if we are also quiet, who will raise their voice?” Khan had said during the speech in front of students of Aligarh Muslim University, located around 125km from the capital, New Delhi.

Critics and family members say the 38-year-old paediatrician was targeted because he chose to speak up against the law, which the United Nations dubbed “fundamentally discriminatory”.

The UP police department in its complaint accused Dr Khan of “sowing seeds of discord towards other religious communities”.

But the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday disagreed with the police, saying “a complete reading of the speech also nowhere threatens peace and tranquility of the city of Aligarh [located in UP]”.

Dr Khan is rising as a prominent Muslim face in India, which the government doesn’t want … they don’t want an educated Muslim person raising his voice, about their rights or equality.

Harjit Singh Bhatti, a doctor based in New Delhi

“The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens. The speech also deprecates any kind of violence,” the 42-page judgement read as it ordered the immediate release of Khan.

Dr Khan said that after he was slapped with the NSA, his family became “untouchable” as people avoided contact with them in their home city of Gorakhpur in UP. “Lawyers would not take my case,” he said.

His activism has also brought troubles to his family. His brother Adeel Khan said his business has been targeted since Kafeel Khan was arrested in 2017. Another brother survived a gun attack.

The 38-year-old doctor’s release on Tuesday ends his third stint in prison [Courtesy family of Dr Kafeel Khan]

Harjit Singh Bhatti, a doctor based in New Delhi, has been one of Khan’s most vocal supporters. He said that Khan has been presumably targeted because of his religion.

“Dr Khan is rising as a prominent Muslim face in India, which the government doesn’t want … they don’t want an educated Muslim person raising his voice, about their rights or equality,” Bhatti told Al Jazeera.

A history of persecution

Dr Khan has spent nearly 500 days in prison in the last three years, as his case has become a symbol of state repression on dissent.

And he is not the only one. Several activists behind the peaceful anti-CAA protests are still behind bars for opposing the government’s alleged anti-minority policies.

The address gives a call for national integrity and unity among the citizens.

Court verdict referring to Khan’s speech

Rights groups have condemned their continued incarceration as the coronavirus virus pandemic poses a threat to their life in India’s crowded prisons. On Monday, India overtook Brazil to become the second-worst country hit by COVID-19 with over 4.2 million cases.

The 38-year-old doctor’s release on Tuesday ends his third stint in prison.

His ordeal with the BJP-led UP government began in September 2017, when he was arrested in the wake of the deaths of 70 children due to lack of oxygen supply at Baba Raghav Das (BRD) Medical College hospital in Gorakhpur, Khan’s hometown.

Then a junior doctor in the paediatrics department, Dr Khan was hailed as a hero for securing a supply of oxygen tanks for the hospital ward from his personal money.

However, according to Dr Khan, the incident did not go down well, with Adityanath chastising Khan for his efforts upon meeting him days after the incident.

Khan was arrested with eight others for the deaths of the minors, and jailed for seven months.

He was arrested again a year later for 45 days, after authorities claimed he had barged into a hospital in the Bahraich district in UP, leading to an alleged ruckus.

The doctor claims he went to the hospital to enquire about the deaths of children at the hospital from encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. Thousands of children have died in Uttar Pradesh and in neighbouring Bihar state due to episodic outbreaks of encephalitis since the 1970s.

In 2018, an investigating team looking into the BRD hospital tragedy exonerated the paediatrician of any criminal wrongdoing. Khan has sought an apology from the Adityanath-led government and the reinstatement of his job.

But instead, the government ordered another inquiry into the children’s death case.

Dr Bhatti, who is also the President of Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum, said Khan has been made a “scapegoat”.

“Khan has been continuously made a scapegoat for the BRD tragedy, despite being a junior doctor at the hospital,” Bhatti told Al Jazeera.

Bhatti has been an outspoken critic of the Modi government’s coronavirus pandemic policy, as the country has emerged as the epicentre of the virus in Asia.

‘They wanted to break me’

Khan, who has moved to western Rajasthan state since his release, says he feared for his life inside the jail. “For the first four to five days of my incarceration, I did not receive any food. I wore the same clothes … I was not able to take a bath or brush my teeth.”

“To go to the toilet there was a queue of 30 minutes,” he said, adding that he had to share the barrack with some 150 people while it actually had the capacity to hold 40.

“They really wanted to break me this time,” he told Al Jazeera.

The paediatrician said at times he would bite on his sleeves to distract himself from the excruciating hunger he experienced. “I was in so much pain I could have eaten grass,” he said.

He said that jail authorities asked him to stop talking about the BRD hospital tragedy, and also demanded that he stop criticising CAA and a proposed citizenship register, which critics fear will likely be used to disenfranchise Muslims.

Despite the immense hardships, Khan revealed that his fellow prisoners, who were aware of his heroics during the BRD episode, would help him with food and other requests during his incarceration.

Khan has temporarily moved to Jaipur, the capital of Rajasthan state, where he has been reunited with his family, including his two children, wife and brother.

He said his most pressing concern is to demand the UP government revoke his suspension from his previous post at the BRD hospital so that he could resume his work.

“For the past three years,” he said, “I have written 25 letters to the UP government to either revoke my suspension or terminate me, so that I can go work somewhere else.”

India protests against CAA

Several activists behind the peaceful anti-CAA protests are still behind bars for opposing the government’s alleged anti-minority policies [File: Pawan Kumar/Reuters]

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Charles Mbire gains $1.2 million as stake in MTN Uganda rises above $51 million



Ugandan businessman and MTN Uganda Chairman Charles Mbire has seen the market value of his stake in MTN Uganda surge above $51 million in just two days, as the share price in the leading teleco company increased by a single digit.

The single-digit bump in the share price caused the market value of Mbire’s stake to gain UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million) in less than two days.

The million-dollar increase in the value of his stake came after Uganda’s largest telecom company delivered the country’s largest-ever IPO through the listing of 22.4 billion ordinary shares on the Uganda Securities Exchange (USE).

Upon completing the largest IPO in Uganda’s history, MTN Uganda raised a record UGX535 billion ($150.4 million) from the applications that it received for a total of 2.9 billion shares, including incentive shares.

As of press time, Dec. 7, shares in the company were trading at UGX204.95 ($0.0574), down six basis points from their opening price this morning.

Data gathered by Billionaires.Africa revealed that since the telecom company registered its shares on the Ugandan bourse on Mon., Dec. 6, its share price has increased by 2.5 percent from UGX200 ($0.056) to UGX204.95 ($0.0574) as of the time of writing, as retail investors sustained buying interest long after the public offering.

The increase in the company’s share price caused the market value of Mbire’s 3.98-percent stake to rise from UGX178.45 billion ($49.96 million) to UGX182.86 billion ($51.2 million).

In less than two days, his stake gained more than UGX4.42 billion ($1.24 million).

In a statement after the successful listing of MTN Uganda’s shares, Mbire said the IPO shows the confidence that Ugandans and other investors have in the company, its brand and strategic intent.

“We commend all the regulators for their support in our work to become a USE-listed company and to comply in a timely manner with the listing provisions of the national telecommunications operators’ license,” he said.

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350 million (debt free).

Steady but sure-MBIRE who is the biggest investor on Ugandas Stock exchange with stocks valued at more than $55 million is laughing all the way to the bank after MTN declared the latest dividend payout.He has steadily grown his business empire which is believed to be more that $350. ( debt free).

He is into communications-revenue assurance-cement-distribution-oil services-real estate-oil exploration and logistics.

Source: Billionaires Africa

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2-year-old dies at Arua hospital as nurse demands Shs 210,000 bribe




A two-year-old child died at Arua Regional Referral hospital after a nurse, Paul Wamala demanded a bribe amounting to Shs 210,000 before carrying out an operation. 

The incident happened on Saturday, after Aron Nabil, a two-year-old child was referred to the hospital for an operation after he was diagnosed with intestinal obstruction, a medical emergency caused by a blockage that keeps food or liquid from passing through the small intestine or large intestine.

According to the relatives of the child, Wamala allegedly asked them to initially give him Shs 30,000 to buy medicines to commence the procedure. He however returned shortly asking for an additional Shs 180,000 from the relatives.

Emily Adiru, a resident of Osu cell, in Bazar Ward, Central Division, and a relative of the child says although they paid money to Wamala, he abandoned the child without carrying out the operation. According to Adiru, Wamala later refunded Shs 200,000 through mobile money, after she threatened to report him to the police.

“They told us this boy needs an operation which was supposed to be done in the morning on Sunday at around 7 am. They took him inside there, some doctor came from the theatre, he called one of us and said, we should pay Shs 70,000 for buying medicine to start the operation. We paid the Shs 30,000 [but] after paying the Shs 30,000, after some minutes, the same man came and opened the door and called us again, and told us we should pay another Shs 100,000. We also paid the Shs 100,000 and we thought it is finished. We were outside there waiting for our patient to come out [but] then this man came back again and said we should pay another Shs 80,000,” said Adiru.

Although the operation was later carried out after a 7-hour delay, the child didn’t make it, and relatives attribute the death to negligence. Miria Ahmed, a concerned resident wonders why such incidents have persisted at the facility which is supposed to service the citizens.

“Is the problem the hospital, is it the management or it is the human resource that is the problem in the hospital? A small child like this you demand Shs 210,000 for the operation? Well, if the money was taken and the operation is done, I would say anything bad but this money was taken and the small boy was abandoned in the theatre,” she said. 

When contacted Wamala refused to comment on the allegations. Dr Gilbert Aniku, the acting hospital director says that the hospital will issue an official statement later since consultations about the matter are ongoing.

Arua City resident district commissioner, Alice Akello has condemned the actions of the nurse saying she has ordered his arrest so as to set an example to the rest. The case has been reported to Arua regional referral hospital police post under SD reference No:05/30/05/2022.

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Mexican president’s Mayan Train dealt new legal setback | Tourism News




Activists say the planned tourist train will harm the wildlife and natural features of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been dealt the latest setback to an ambitious plan to create a tourist train to connect the country’s southern Yucatan Peninsula.

On Monday, a judge indefinitely suspended construction on a portion of the project, known as the Mayan Train, saying the plans currently do not comply “with the proceedings of the environmental impact evaluation”.

The ruling follows a legal challenge by activists who said they were concerned the 60km (37 mile) portion of the train that would connect the resorts of Playa del Carmen and Tulum would adversely affect the area’s wildlife, as well as its caves and water-filled sinkholes known as cenotes.

The original plan for the disputed section was for an overpass over a highway, but the route was modified early this year to go through jungle at ground level.

The federal judge cited the “imminent danger” of causing “irreversible damage” to ecosystems, according to one of the plaintiffs, the non-governmental group Defending the Right to a Healthy Environment. In a statement, the group said that authorities had failed to carry out the necessary environmental impact studies before starting construction of the section.

Lopez Obrador had announced the ambitious project in 2018, with construction beginning in 2020. The roughly 1,500km (930 mile) cargo and passenger rail loop was presented as a cornerstone of a wider plan to develop the poorer states and remote towns throughout the about 181,000sq km (70,000sq mile) Yucatan Peninsula.

The railway is set to connect Caribbean beach resorts with Mayan archaeological ruins, with authorities aiming to complete the project by the end of 2023. The plan is estimated to cost about $16bn.

The project has split communities across the region, with some welcoming the economic development and connectivity it would bring. Others, including some local Indigenous communities, have challenged the project, saying it could not only disrupt the migratory routes of endangered species, including jaguars, tapirs and ocelots, but could also potentially damage centuries-old Mayan archaeological sites.

The National Fund for the Promotion of Tourism, the government agency overseeing the project, has said that it expects to “overcome” the latest challenge and that work should continue after an environmental impact statement is finalised. It said the Environment Ministry was currently reviewing its environmental application for the project.

For his part, Lopez Obrador has insisted the railway will not have a significant environmental effect and has accused activists of being infiltrated by “impostors”.

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