mangalore today

Indian Taliban Chop Off Lecturer Hand For ’Blasphemy’

Thiruvananthapuram, July 4:  In a horrific instance of Talibanism, Muslim fanatics in Kerala on Sunday chopped off the right hand of a college lecturer, accusing him of setting a question paper with a derogatory reference to the Prophet. 

Lecturer T J Joseph was returning from church with his mother and sister around 8.30am in Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district when he was accosted by the attackers.

‘‘We had just got into our car when a van pulled up. Around eight people with swords and knives emerged and pulled out Joseph after smashing the windscreen. They chopped off his right hand and stabbed him in the left thigh,’’ said Joseph’s sister, Mary Stella, a nun. 

‘‘When we tried to prevent them, they attacked me and our mother before exploding bombs and fleeing.’’ 


The 52-year-old lecturer was rushed to a private hospital. His condition is serious. 

Security forces in Kerala have been put on high alert after the incident. 

Police suspect fundamentalist groups behind the attack on T J Joseph, a Malayalam language professor, who was released on bail after his arrest in April for provoking religious sentiments through the question paper.

Joseph was also sacked by the church-run Newman College in Thodupuzha town of the hilly district of Pathamthitta following angry protests by Muslim organisations which said the question paper was blasphemous.

Joseph was returning home with his family after attending morning prayers when a group of people in a van pulled him out of his car. Joseph’s right palm was chopped off and thrown some 200m away, police said. 

He also suffered deep cuts on the body and was rushed to a hospital in Kochi for a surgery to reattach the severed palm. 

“We saw a van in front of us stopping our car. Suddenly its doors were open and in a swift move they smashed the glass of our car, pulled my brother out and hacked him. They also attacked me and our aged mother who was also in the car,” said a horrified Mary Stella, Joseph’s sister.

“The registration number of the van is fake. The immediate provocation of this crime appears to be the question paper issue,” said P P Shams, Muvattupuzha Circle Inspector of Police.

Police have detained some members of the Popular Front of India (PFI) as part of their investigation. They say the PFI which recently took the political plunge by launching the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) has been under the scanner for their involvement in such attacks.

“As per the information we received, the attack has a link to the question paper and we cannot rule out a conspiracy to disturb communal harmony behind this,” Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said.

Christian and Muslim organisations and political parties including the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), the All India Sunni Jam’iyyathul Ulema (AISJU), the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) condemned the attack and appealed for calm.

“There is no place for violence in a mature democratic society. The matter is in the court ad we hope the law will take its course,” AISJU leader Kanthapuram A P Aboobacker Musliar said while condemning the attack. “We cannot let anyone to take up arms and the culprits should be brought to book.”

“We have received some clues about the attackers and we hope to catch them soon. We have formed a network of investigators who have launched combing operations in the central Kerala districts,” Inspector General B Sandhya said.

Joseph, a member of a pro-government teachers’ union, surrendered on April 1 after the police issued a lookout notice on him. There were also several attempts to attack him by groups even after he apologised for his mistake.

In April this year, Joseph was arrested after a question paper set by him triggered protests by Muslims. He was later released on bail.

The question paper, for an internal degree exam in March, contained a text taken from an article written by P T Kunjumuhammed, a director of several award-winning films and former CPI(M) legislator.

Referring to his film Garshom, Kunjumuhammed explained in the article that the thread for a scene in the movie, in which the protagonist speaks to God, was picked from his own experience about a madman who used to speak to God. While reproducing the conversation as a passage for punctuation, Joseph replaced the mad man with Muhammed, thus making it seem like a dialogue between God and Muhammed.