Wednesday, 23 September 2020

How Zia ul Haq Demonised Rape Survivors Instead Of Punishing Rapists


Whether it is a former president of Islamic Republic of Pakistan or the current CCPO of the capital of Pakistan’s largest province, the mindset of our male dominated society hasn’t changed in the last four decades.

In 2005, President Musharraf made comments in the context of a question about the treatment of a rape survivor Mukhtar Mai whose case gained international attention.

“You must understand the environment in Pakistan … This has become a money-making concern. A lot of people say if you want to go abroad and get a visa for Canada or citizenship and be a millionaire, get yourself raped.”

The president said that the newspaper had misinterpreted what he had said and that he was misquoted. But co-author of the Washington Post article, said: “The president’s comments were tape recorded and they were quoted verbatim and in context.”

On September 9, 2020, a woman was gang raped in front of her children during a robbery bid in Gujjarpura along the recently inaugurated Lahore-Sialkot Motorway.
Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh blamed the victim of gang-rape incident instead, for taking the route that she had chosen and said that she should have checked her petrol tank before getting on the said route. Umar Sheikh added that the woman had left Lahore’s Defence area at 12:30am for Gujranwala.
“I am surprised that a mother of three, a lone driver after leaving Defence should have taken the straight route from GT Road — a generally well-populated area.”

Did public hangings in Zia era stop rapes?

A false and deceptive claim has been circulating on social media by many accounts since the rape incident last week to justify public hanging of rapists: “During 1981 — in late Gen Ziaul Haq’s tenure — the public hanging of a killer and rapist of a young boy, had effectively worked as a deterrent for the next 10 years.

“The abductors and killers were arrested and executed in public and their bodies remained hanging till the sunset. This stern punishment served as an effective deterrent as no child was reportedly molested and murdered in the next decade or so. And Islam closes the door to the criminal who wants to commit this deleterious and truculent crime. The laws of Islam came to protect women’s honour,” they say.

On February 10, 1979, General Zia ul Haq promulgated four ordinances, collectively referred to as the Hudood Ordinance. The intent of the ordinances, as stated by him was to bring Pakistan’s legal system closer to the precepts of Islam.

Four years after the Zina Ordinance was adopted, a law of evidence was promulgated that did not allow women to testify at all in certain cases and in others considered a woman’s testimony irrelevant, unless corroborated by that of another woman. This essentially gave men and women different legal rights, underscoring that the state did not regard women and men as equal actors.

In 1983 Asma Jahangir and other women rights activists from the Women’s Action Forum organized a protest against Zia’s proposed law of evidence stipulating that the value of a woman’s testimony was half that of a man. This was the first time Zia’s laws and his regime was publicly challenged. In 1987, she co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the only independent watchdog for human rights with a nationwide presence.
Following are the few examples of rape victims who suffered for years because of the Hudood Ordinance:
Rafaqat Bibi applied to the martial law authorities to instruct the police to file an FIR against influential people in her village who raped her. She was arrested by the police and in 1984 the court convicted her of Zina for being pregnant without proper explanation.

Safia Bibi, a blind girl, was convicted of Zina by a court in Sahiwal. Her confession was her unexplained pregnancy. The alleged rapists were given the benefit of the doubt and acquitted.

Tasleem Bibi was sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment and awarded 30 lashes in public by the Federal Shariat Court in 1985.

Jehan Mina, who gave birth to a still-born child, suffered the rigours of imprisonment and went mute with the shock of her experience. Her uncle had filed a report with the police, alleging that his orphaned niece had been raped by his brother-in-law and nephew. The trial court convicted Jehan of Zina, as she was pregnant. She was awarded 100 stripes in public. Later the Federal Sharia Court reduced her sentence to three years of rigorous imprisonment and an infliction of 10 lashes in public.

In 2002, Zafran Bibi went to the police to register a case of rape, but she herself was instead charged with having an adulterous affair. A court sentenced her to stoning by death under Pakistan’s Hudood Ordinances, which effectively equate rape with adultery. Despite Bibi’s repeated charges that her brother-in-law had raped her on multiple occasions, the presiding judge convicted her of Zina. She gave birth to a son. She remained in jail with her seven-month-old baby until 2005, when a judge in Peshawar suspended the sentence and allowed her appeal to be heard by a full bench of the Sharia court in Islamabad.

In 1996 Benazir Bhutto’s government brought the Abolition of Whipping Act, forbade sentences/punishments of whipping offenders except when imposed as a Hadd punishment. Those aligned with the clerics argued that the Hudood are God’s law and term any tampering of them un-Islamic.

On 15 November 2006, National Assembly of Pakistan passed Women Protection Bill to amend the heavily criticised 1979 Hudood Ordinance laws. Under the new bill, death penalty for extramarital sex and the need for victims to produce four witnesses to prove rape cases were removed. Death penalty and flogging for people convicted of having consensual sex outside marriage was removed. However, consensual sex outside marriage was still treated as a criminal offense with a punishment of five years in prison or a fine. The punishment for rape under 2006 Women Protection Bill is either death or imprisonment of between ten and twenty-five years. For cases related to gang rape, the punishment is either death penalty or life imprisonment.

On 7 October 2016, Pakistan’s parliament unanimously passed new anti-rape and anti-honour killing bills. According to the new anti-rape bill, DNA testing was made mandatory in rape cases. According to the new law, anyone who rapes a minor or a mentally or physically disabled person will be liable for the death penalty or life imprisonment. Recording of statement of the female survivor of rape or sexual harassment shall be done by an Investigating Officer, in the presence of a female police officer, or a female family member of the survivor.

Despite the revisions of laws over the period of time, we are not getting anywhere because of non-implementation of laws. Until and unless there are serious reforms in Police and judiciary, nothing is going to change. Pakistan’s social structure is not accommodating women as equal citizens. Women in Pakistan live within an environment of retrogressive cultural practices that are often viewed as religious mandates. Progressive voices are often labelled as radical because of Pakistan’s legacy of conscious Islamisation. From Benazir Bhutto to Asma Jahangir to Mukhtar Mai and thousands of unnamed women made it possible to force the successive parliaments to make changes in Hudood Ordinance. Whatever rights they have now, because of their own struggle. There are no contributions of men I am afraid.

Let me quote Asma Jahangir to close the long timeline of women’s struggle in Pakistan:
“You cannot have human rights in a society if you do not have women rights”

Link

Tuesday, 22 September 2020

Dalits bear brunt of India's 'endemic' sexual violence crisis

 
 
A spate of brutal rapes and murders of young girls in a single district of India over the past month has provoked outrage and exposed the ongoing use of sexual violence as a tool of oppression and revenge against lower caste communities.

Over the past month, the Lakhimpur Kheri district of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh has witnessed four incidents of girls being raped and brutally murdered. At least two of the girls were Dalits, the lowest caste in the Hindu system of social hierarchy, who were previously referred to as “untouchables” and cast out from society.

Last week, a 14-year-old girl Dalit girl was found hanging from a tree in a village, having been raped and murdered. Just a few days before, a three-year-old girl was raped and strangled to death.

On 14 and 24 August, two girls, a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, were both raped and killed in Lakhimpur Kheri.

“These cases of extreme sexual violence are more examples of the dominant caste wielding power over Dalit women who are perceived as weak and vulnerable and available,” said Manjula Pradeep, director of campaigns at the Dalit Human Rights Defenders Network.

She added: “Dalit women are seen as impure and deprived when they access basic amenities but their bodies are also used as objects to take revenge on the Dalit communities and keep them oppressed. With more Dalits demanding their rights, these kinds of incidents we have seen in Lakhimpur Kheri are increasing.”

Local activists said the assaults carried out against the Dalit girls went ignored by police until the issue was raised by activists and members of the opposition political party, who said the incident of the 13-year-old had “shaken humanity”. Activists have also struggled to enter the village to intervene in the cases as upper caste members of the village had reportedly blocked access.

The state of Uttar Pradesh already has the highest number of reported cases of violence against Dalits but during coronavirus lockdown there was a reported spike of attacks on Dalits by upper caste Thakurs. However, no arrests have been made.

“The recent spate of rape and murder cases in the Lakhimpur Kheri district indicates an endemic problem of sexual violence and the state government needs to do much more to address this crisis,” said Divya Srinivasan, a south Asia consultant for women’s rights organisation Equality Now.

“In many instances, sexual violence committed against Dalit women and girls is perpetrated by men from dominant ‘upper castes’, who use sexual violence as a tool to assert power and reinforce existing caste, social and gender hierarchies,” said Srinivasan.

Srinivasan emphasised that these entrenched hierarchies of power gave attackers of Dalit women a worrying sense of impunity. Assaults on lower caste women were rarely investigated or prosecuted, and in the case of Dalit victims, rarely prompt much media coverage or public outrage.

India remains the most unsafe country for women in the world, with a woman raped every 20 minutes. Lower caste women in particular bear the brunt, with little to no access to justice. It first came to light in a 1999 report by Human Rights Watch that documented how Dalit women in Bihar were raped and then had their breasts cut off and were shot in the vulva.

Official statistics show that at least four Dalit women are raped in India every day, though the real number is thought to be much higher as the communities often do not report the rapes due to pressure from higher castes or because police refuse to file the cases.

Recent incidents include a 19-year-old Dalit girl in Gujarat who was sodomised and her body hung from a banyan tree in January, and a 16-year-old Dalit girl in Gujarat who had been repeatedly raped and gang-raped and then thrown from a water tank in April.

An upcoming joint report by Equality Now and Swabhiman Society found that Dalit women are subjected to more severe or aggravated forms of sexual violence, such as gang-rapes or rape with murder.

The issue of sexual violence has become more prominent in recent years, particularly following the 2012 Delhi bus gang-rape case, and again last year after the brutal gang-rape of a vet in Hyderabad. Despite harsher punishments introduced for sexual violence, reports of rape and assault continue to rise.

Link


Monday, 21 September 2020

Marital Rape in Pakistan



TRIGGER WARNING: disturbing content!

When Mannat was 16, her brother got married. He loved his wife – let’s call her Ambreen – and admired how religious she was. She observed the hijab and everything that made her seem like a good Muslim woman.

She had five older brothers, all of whom were just as religious. The eldest one, who was 31 years old at the time told her he was interested in marrying her 16-year-old sister-in-law. Perhaps due to his age or experience, he was managing the family business and everyone held him in high esteem.

Eager to forward her brother’s message, Ambreen talked to her husband about the proposal which he immediately refused. His sister was only 16 and the age difference could not be justified so he knew it was a bad idea.

However, the rejection made Ambreen unhappy and she decided to talk about it with her mother-in-law in the hopes of getting her on board.
So, she did. Along with promising that her brother would pay haq-mehr worth a million in cash as well as a hefty amount of gold. Unfortunately for Mannat, her mother was the greedy type and readily agreed to the proposal. Thus, began a series of emotional manipulation, whereby she would pressurize Mannat into saying yes.

Mannat was only 16 and aspired to be a doctor but her mom’s coercion saw no defeat. “Agar tumne yahan shadi nahi ki to yaad rakhna jahan bhi shadi hoi mein tumhen bilkul support nahi karun gi. Tumhen pata hai susral mein kitne problems hote hein. Mujh se koi umeed na rakhna. Yeh tumhari bhabhi ka bhai hai. Apni behan k darr se tumhare sath theek rahe ga. Waise bhi agar shohar bari umar ka ho to biwi k bohat nakhray uthata hai.”

After days of feeding her such nonsense, Mannat finally gave in to her mother and sister-in-law’s cruel demands. And long story short, she was married.

Right after the wedding functions ended, the torture began.

He sexually abused her every night, continued to rape her even though she told him the sex hurt. In fact, whenever she complained, he flat-out refused to accept she was in pain. He also bit her in different places and her entire body was covered in bruises.

Needless to say, he was sexually frustrated. It was later revealed that he held resentment against women since he had been rejected multiple times before. Turns out, because he was ‘too’ religious, families weren’t willing to get their daughters into such an arrangement.

Despite his claimed devotion to religion, the man regularly engaged in anal sex (read: marital rape) with Mannat. He continued it for three weeks, everyday, until she got sick. She lost a lot of blood and ultimately fainted, upon which her husband’s parents called her family and asked them to take her back.

“Jo larki apne shohar ko satisfy na kar sakay us ka hum kia karen?” they said.
When Mannat’s brother came to pick her up, she was unconscious and he took her straight to the hospital. Once the doctors examined her, they called him in and showed him how brutally her body had been violated. That’s when he realized what was happening all along. Naturally, he was furious but because Mannat was in such bad condition, he had to wait for her medical treatment to complete. She had to go through a procedure to get her rectum fixed. And Mannat and her brother returned home after five days, both mentally shattered.

Knowing that his wife had pushed Mannat into the marriage, things got to the point where he wanted to divorce her. And when Ambreen found out he wanted to end their relationship, she argued she wasn’t the only one to blame “mujhe to talaq de do ge apni maa ka kia karo ge? Woh bhi barabar ki shareek hai.” He knew full well that his mother was equally responsible. In fact, Mannat was the reason they ended up staying together. She urged him not to leave her because she believed her mother was just as guilty.

However, he helped his sister get a divorce and it took her eighteen months to gain whatever normalcy was possible in her circumstances. She resumed her studies and is a practicing doctor now. And guess what? she never got any haq-mehr; not the money nor the cash. Maybe this will be a lesson for Mannat’s mother who should have known better than bargaining her own child for greed.

It’s unbelievable to think that a mother would do such a thing. But it doesn’t end here.
At the beginning of it all, Mannat told her mother about her now ex-husband’s heinous acts but instead of helping her, she told him ‘sub mard aise hote hen.’

One of the times, Mannat even went back to her parents’ house because she decided she had had enough. But her mother forced her back to hell by telling her to keep quiet, as otherwise it would hurt her brother’s marriage. “agar tum ne koi baat munh se nikali to yad rakhna bhai bhabi ka ghar kharab hoga.” Apparently, they were pregnant with their first child and Mannat had to suffer more torture because her mother guilt-shamed her into potentially breaking her brother’s family.

Mannat is one of the thousands of girls forced into marriage everyday; for money, honor and shame. While men like her ex-husband deserve to be apprehended for their crimes, let’s not forget the parents. For a mother – or a father – to let their child suffer, that too, on top of forcing them into a marriage that is utterly peodophilic, is and always will be criminal.TRIGGER WARNING: disturbing content!

When Mannat was 16, her brother got married. He loved his wife – let’s call her Ambreen – and admired how religious she was. She observed the hijab and everything that made her seem like a good Muslim woman.

She had five older brothers, all of whom were just as religious. The eldest one, who was 31 years old at the time told her he was interested in marrying her 16-year-old sister-in-law. Perhaps due to his age or experience, he was managing the family business and everyone held him in high esteem.

Eager to forward her brother’s message, Ambreen talked to her husband about the proposal which he immediately refused. His sister was only 16 and the age difference could not be justified so he knew it was a bad idea.

However, the rejection made Ambreen unhappy and she decided to talk about it with her mother-in-law in the hopes of getting her on board.
So, she did. Along with promising that her brother would pay haq-mehr worth a million in cash as well as a hefty amount of gold. Unfortunately for Mannat, her mother was the greedy type and readily agreed to the proposal. Thus, began a series of emotional manipulation, whereby she would pressurize Mannat into saying yes.

Mannat was only 16 and aspired to be a doctor but her mom’s coercion saw no defeat. “Agar tumne yahan shadi nahi ki to yaad rakhna jahan bhi shadi hoi mein tumhen bilkul support nahi karun gi. Tumhen pata hai susral mein kitne problems hote hein. Mujh se koi umeed na rakhna. Yeh tumhari bhabhi ka bhai hai. Apni behan k darr se tumhare sath theek rahe ga. Waise bhi agar shohar bari umar ka ho to biwi k bohat nakhray uthata hai.”

After days of feeding her such nonsense, Mannat finally gave in to her mother and sister-in-law’s cruel demands. And long story short, she was married.

Right after the wedding functions ended, the torture began.

He sexually abused her every night, continued to rape her even though she told him the sex hurt. In fact, whenever she complained, he flat-out refused to accept she was in pain. He also bit her in different places and her entire body was covered in bruises.

Needless to say, he was sexually frustrated. It was later revealed that he held resentment against women since he had been rejected multiple times before. Turns out, because he was ‘too’ religious, families weren’t willing to get their daughters into such an arrangement.

Despite his claimed devotion to religion, the man regularly engaged in anal sex (read: marital rape) with Mannat. He continued it for three weeks, everyday, until she got sick. She lost a lot of blood and ultimately fainted, upon which her husband’s parents called her family and asked them to take her back.

“Jo larki apne shohar ko satisfy na kar sakay us ka hum kia karen?” they said.
When Mannat’s brother came to pick her up, she was unconscious and he took her straight to the hospital. Once the doctors examined her, they called him in and showed him how brutally her body had been violated. That’s when he realized what was happening all along. Naturally, he was furious but because Mannat was in such bad condition, he had to wait for her medical treatment to complete. She had to go through a procedure to get her rectum fixed. And Mannat and her brother returned home after five days, both mentally shattered.

Knowing that his wife had pushed Mannat into the marriage, things got to the point where he wanted to divorce her. And when Ambreen found out he wanted to end their relationship, she argued she wasn’t the only one to blame “mujhe to talaq de do ge apni maa ka kia karo ge? Woh bhi barabar ki shareek hai.” He knew full well that his mother was equally responsible. In fact, Mannat was the reason they ended up staying together. She urged him not to leave her because she believed her mother was just as guilty.

However, he helped his sister get a divorce and it took her eighteen months to gain whatever normalcy was possible in her circumstances. She resumed her studies and is a practicing doctor now. And guess what? she never got any haq-mehr; not the money nor the cash. Maybe this will be a lesson for Mannat’s mother who should have known better than bargaining her own child for greed.

It’s unbelievable to think that a mother would do such a thing. But it doesn’t end here.
At the beginning of it all, Mannat told her mother about her now ex-husband’s heinous acts but instead of helping her, she told him ‘sub mard aise hote hen.’

One of the times, Mannat even went back to her parents’ house because she decided she had had enough. But her mother forced her back to hell by telling her to keep quiet, as otherwise it would hurt her brother’s marriage. “agar tum ne koi baat munh se nikali to yad rakhna bhai bhabi ka ghar kharab hoga.” Apparently, they were pregnant with their first child and Mannat had to suffer more torture because her mother guilt-shamed her into potentially breaking her brother’s family.

Mannat is one of the thousands of girls forced into marriage everyday; for money, honor and shame. While men like her ex-husband deserve to be apprehended for their crimes, let’s not forget the parents. For a mother – or a father – to let their child suffer, that too, on top of forcing them into a marriage that is utterly peodophilic, is and always will be criminal.

Link

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Muslim Medics Taunted About Bacon And Alcohol – By Their Own NHS Colleagues



 Being “visibly Muslim”, such as wearing a hijab or having a long beard, made it more likely for Muslim NHS workers to face Islamophobia. One woman said she stopped wearing the hijab as it was “like wearing a sign saying ‘kick me’.”

Meanwhile, alcohol – forbidden in Islam – has been described as a “social glue” in the NHS, with many Muslims believing they have missed out on career and bonding opportunities because socialising outside work revolves around drink.

And while there are many incidents of outright bullying and harassment, it is the subtle, more difficult to prove Islamophobia within the NHS that is the “most dangerous discrimination”, say Muslim healthcare workers.

A staggering 43% admitted they had considered leaving the NHS because of Islamophobia.

Our survey conducted in conjunction with BIMA had 133 respondents from all over the country working in various NHS roles including consultants, surgeons, GPs, pharmacists and medical students.

One Muslim NHS worker said: “I think Islamophobia has increased in society at large and this is reflected in the NHS.”

Dr Salman Waqar, general secretary at BIMA, told HuffPost UK: “It reflects a wider societal unease about religion and the way spirituality and belief is seen as a problem.

“Some Muslims will not make a fuss because of fear of retribution. But making small compromises causes turbulence and unease internally.

“This creates a sense of not belonging for Muslims in the NHS and biological weathering. They feel they have to put on their uniform, turn up for work and justify their existence to colleagues.”

Dr Hina J Shahid, chair of the Muslim Doctors Association, said: “We see people celebrating diversity in all its forms in the NHS – but people generally don’t want to talk about religion. It is like a taboo subject.

“Belonging to a religious group is almost seen as going against the scientific nature of being a doctor.”

“In the NHS, you realise there’s something about the hijab that really riles people,” says Kiran Rahim, a paediatric registrar in London. “People make assumptions about you. When people first see me, they presume I don’t speak English, or I have an accent.”

She says judgements are made about women in hijabs and she is asked questions by colleagues like: “Does your husband make you wear that?” and “Do you wear your hijab when you shower?”

“I would expect people I work with to be more clued up. I am as British as they come, but my religion is part of my identity.”

Muslim women told HuffPost UK they were often perceived to be less educated due to wearing headscarves, and received backhanded compliments such as surprise at how well they spoke English – even when they were born and raised in the UK.

Zineb Mehbali, 32, a registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology, believes a culture exists within the NHS where people are discriminated against for being different.

She wears a hijab and experienced overt Islamophobia at one hospital when her locker was vandalised and had the word “hijab” scrawled across it.

“I’m quite resilient, but there have been situations where I’ve cried at work,” she said. “When my locker was vandalised for being Muslim, it made me feel vulnerable but also very hurt as I knew a colleague had done that.”

Link

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

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




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.

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.

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.

"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.

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.

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.

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."

Link