Kerala prof hand chopped off for ‘vilifying’ Prophet

via Daily Pioneer | Kochi published on July 4, 2010

In a gruesome incident, suspected religious extremists chopped off the right hand of a college professor, under suspension since March for allegedly preparing a question paper with derogatory references to Prophet Muhammad, at Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district on Sunday morning. The police took into custody 15 persons, reportedly activists of Islamist resistance outfit NDF (presently Popular Front of India), for questioning.

TJ Joseph, a Malayalam professor at Newman’s College, Thodupuzha, Idukki, was attacked by a gang of about ten people when he was returning home with his mother and sister in a car after attending Sunday mass at a church in Muvattupuzha. The assailants, who attacked the professor after blocking his car with a Maruti Omni vehicle, chopped his hand at the wrist and threw it into a nearby compound. He was admitted to a Kochi hospital specialising in limb reconstruction.

State Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a Politburo member of the CPI(M), said in Delhi that the Government would examine whether the attack was pre-planned and executed by religious extremists. But sources in the police said the attack looked like a well-planned one and that there were strong indications that NDF activists were behind it. The BJP demanded an NIA probe into the incident.

Joseph’s sister Stella, who was with him in the car, said that a ten-man gang had attacked them with weapons like axes and machetes and that he suffered hack injuries in several parts of his body. His aged mother also was injured in the attack. Stella said that the gang had intruded into their house at least three times in the past with threats, adding that complaints about this had been lodged with the police.

The attack took place at about 8.30 am and the police found the Omni used by the assailants by about 3 pm. Forensic scientists, who examined the vehicle, found blood marks in it. By 7 pm, they had taken into custody 12 persons. Intelligence officials said the Popular Front and its political wing Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) had gained strength in Thodupuzha recently.

Inspector General of Police (Central Zone) B Sandhya, heading the investigations, said they had got clear indications about the assailants but refused to divulge details. She said the investigation had been intensified and those behind the attack would be held soon. “A network of police in Idukki, Ernakulam and other districts would investigate the case,” she said.

Thodupuzha town, the commercial nerve-centre of Idukki district, had seen stiff protests by various Muslim organisations in March last when the question paper scandal had broken out. Several persons were injured in clashes with police and prohibitory orders were imposed around Newman’s College. Following this, Professor Joseph, who had prepared the question paper, was arrested and suspended from service.

Demanding an NIA probe into the attack on the college professor, Kerala BJP president V Muraleedharan asked the Home Ministry not to encourage Talibanism in the State. “The Thodupuzha incident proves that Islamic terrorism has strengthened in Kerala. We are not blaming any particular outfit for that. But a tendency to nurture Talibanism should not be there,” he said in Thiruvananthapuram.

Education Minister MA Baby, a CPI(M) central committee member, termed the attack on the teacher as an effort to polarise the society on communal lines. Kerala Congress chairman KM Mani said the incident proved the failure of the State Home department. He said the police had failed to provide security to the professor and his family even after receiving their complaints.

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