As professor T.J. Joseph of Newman College, Thodupuzha in south Kerala, recovers in hospital after a 15-hour surgery to reattach his right hand—hacked off by alleged Popular Front of India (PFI) assailants—questions are being asked over how a Taliban-model, cold-blooded attack could take place in public and in broad daylight in what is one of India’s supposedly better policed states.
The police have arrested two PFI activists and the search is on for the other assailants. The attack, apparently, was in retaliation for a blasphemous question set by Joseph in the Malayalam semester examination paper for BCom students. Joseph, who education minister M.A. Baby later called a “fool”, set the question based on a short story by CPI(M) leader P.T. Kunju Mohammed about a village madcap who questions god. The students were asked to punctuate a passage from the story. But the nameless mad man in the story was referred to as Mohammed by Joseph while setting the paper. That was enough for the local edition of the Jamaat-e-Islami’s newspaper to carry a prominent report, sparking off the controversy. Soon, the Campus Front, the PFI’s student wing, launched an agitation. That was in March.
But why did Joseph set such a question? Wasn’t he aware that it would hurt religious sentiments? Some say it was innocuously done. Others point out that the professor, who is close to the CPI(M), did not get on well with the college authorities and set the question to create trouble for the management. There is still no clarity on Joseph’s intentions.
His family, it seems, always anticipated trouble and had even filed police complaints citing a threat to Joseph’s life. A confused police force had also dithered in arresting suspects even after a report that they had gone to the professor’s residence and done a recce days before the attack. Sources say even the state intelligence had warned the police that the situation was communally sensitive. Had the police acted, perhaps the attack could have been prevented.
But the police ignored the warnings. Says former DGP K.J. Joseph, “It’s unthinkable that an incident like this should happen in Kerala, that too in broad daylight, and three months after the initial provocation. It’s because the assailants believed they could get away with it. The blame rests squarely on the police for allowing such an impression to build up.”
In the past few years, there have been many attempts by fringe Muslim outfits to lead the community away from their mainstream party, the Muslim League. The SDPI is the latest avatar of this, ready to play extremist politics in a state where Muslims make up a quarter of the population. Renowned litterateur M.N. Karasseri, himself a retired professor and someone who keeps tabs on Muslim politics, says, “The Muslim youth today are looking for idealism and adventure. They are being misguided by the proponents of Maududism that espouses a do-or-die battle for ensuring hukumathe ilahi (the rule of Allah). The SDPI, Jamaat and several other outfits subscribe to this philosophy. If the rest of society does not realise the inherent danger, more Taliban-model reprisals will follow.”
The primitive manner in which a Kerala professor’s hand was hacked because of some perceived blasphemy is outrageous (Wrong Question, Jul 19). The response of the Kerala education minister calling Joseph a fool was equally disgraceful. Tejinder, St Louis, US
The same people who are now talking of the Kerala professor’s ‘rights’ were talking differently when a couple of years ago, churches and members of the Christian community in Karnataka were attacked for derogatory references to Hindu gods. Abusing Islam and Muslims seems to have become the in thing these days. Sameer, Bangalore
It’s offending to see the Outlook article questioning the professor’s intentions. He had every right to set the content of his course without having to worry about a bloodthirsty fringe of religious fascists. The crime, of course, is a symptom of a dangerous rot in Kerala society, compounded by incompetent law enforcement. Varun Garde, Bangalore
This shows the deplorable depths to which intolerance has plunged in Kerala. K.S. Thampi, Chennai
We at Outlookindia.com welcome feedback and your comments, including scathing criticism
1. Scathing, passionate, even angry critiques are welcome, but please do not indulge in abuse and invective. Our Primary concern is to keep the debate civil. We urge our users to try and express their disagreements without being disagreeable. Personal attacks are not welcome. No ad hominem please.
2. Please do not post the same message again and again in the same or different threads
3. Please keep your responses confined to the subject matter of the article you are responding to. Please note that our comments section is not a general free-for-all but for feedback to articles/blogs posted on the site
4. Our endeavour is to keep these forums unmoderated and unexpurgated. But if any of the above three conditions are violated, we reserve the right to delete any comment that we deem objectionable and also to withdraw posting privileges from the abuser. Please also note that hate-speech is punishable by law and in extreme circumstances, we may be forced to take legal action by tracing the IP addresses of the poster.
5. If someone is being abusive or personal, or generally being a troll or a flame-baiter, please do not descend to their level. The best response to such posters is to ignore them and send us a message at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT
6. Please do not copy and paste copyrighted material. If you do think that an article elsewhere has relevance to the point you wish to make, please only quote what is considered fair-use and provide a link to the article under question.
7. There is no particular outlookindia.com line on any subject. The views expressed in our opinion section are those of the author concerned and not that of all of outlookindia.com or all its authors.
8. Please also note that you are solely responsible for the comments posted by you on the site. The comments could be deleted or edited entirely at our discretion if we find them objectionable. However, the mere fact of their existence on our site does not mean that we necessarily approve of their contents. In short, the onus of responsibility for the comments remains solely with the authors thereof. Outlookindia.com or any of its group publications, may, however, retains the right to publish any of these comments, with or without editing, in any medium whatsoever. It is therefore in your own interest to be careful before posting.
9.Outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for how any search engine -- such as Google, Bing etc -- caches or displays these comments. Please note that you are solely responsible for posting these comments and it is a privilege being granted to our registered users which can be withdrawn in case of abuse. To reiterate:
a. Comments once posted can only be deleted at the discretion of outlookindia.com
b. The comments reflect the views of the authors and not of outlookindia.com
c. outlookindia.com is not responsible in any manner whatsoever for the way search engines cache or display these comments
d. Please therefore take due caution before you post any comments as your words could potentially be used against you
10. We have an online thread for our comments policy:
You are welcome to post your suggestions here or in case you have a specific issue, to directly email us at Mail AT outlookindia DOT com with the subject header COMPLAINT