Cong out to cash in on hacked prof’s misery

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on October 11, 2010

The Congress and the Opposition UDF coalition it heads in Kerala are being accused of an unethical bid to cash in on the miseries of Prof TJ Joseph, who lost his job after losing his right hand in an attack by Islamists.

The UDF is facing the allegation that it is appeasing both the Islamists and the Church, whose college management sacked the professor, with eyes riveted on minority votebanks in the context of the State civic polls for which polling is to be held on October 23 and 25.

The Congress and the UDF have adopted a position that there is nothing wrong in the dismissal of the professor by the management of Thodupuzha’s Newman College, run by the Kothamangalam Diocese of the Catholic Church. Observers point out that this position of the Congress indirectly justifies the Islamist attack on the professor.

Islamists belonging to the Popular Front of India had on July 4 cut off the right hand of Prof TJ Joseph, head of the department of Malayalam at the college, for blaspheming Prophet Muhammad through a question paper. The college management sacked him with effect from September 1 for the same reason and also for not tendering apologies for that.

“Even a strong section in the Catholic Church has objected to the action of the diocesan authorities against the professor. But the Congress and its allies are supporting the college management totally. The Congress is being more loyal to the Church than the Pope,” said a colleague of Prof Joseph at Newman College.

It is alleged that the Congress had decided to support the diocesan authorities after the CPI(M) and the Government it headed took a firm stand that the professor should be reinstated in service. “By doing this, they are trying to ensure the support of both the Church of Idukki district and the Islamists in the civic election,” he said.

The Congress had reportedly gone to the extent of even forging a formal electoral alliance with the SDPI, the political wing of the Popular Front, in Idukki, which enraged the Muslim League, second largest constituent of the UDF. The Congress leadership had to do a lot of fire-fighting in the State level after the League made a big issue out of this.

The justification of the Congress for the college management’s action had first come from the party’s Idukki district chief Roy K Poulose but the State-level leaders, obviously under indecision, tried to play it down as a local matter. However, the formal justification later came from none other than State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala himself.

According to Chennithala, the college management was justified in dismissing Prof Joseph for the crime of “setting the question paper in such a way that it endangered religious harmony”. He said that the crime of the professor could not be forgotten just because the Islamists had attacked him.

Observers are of the opinion that the Congress is using the issue of the professor’s dismissal as a platform to re-capture the support of the Church which it had lost in 2004. “This issue has given the Congress the opportunity to appease both the Church and the Muslim hardliners simultaneously,” said a senior newspaper editor.

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