NIA court holds 14 guilty of chopping Kerala professor’s hand
The NIA court in Kochi on Thursday found 14 persons guilty in the case pertaining to the chopping of the hand of a college professor on charges of insulting the Prophet. The court acquitted 17 others. The quantum of sentence would be pronounced later.
In July, 2010, Joseph’s right palm was chopped off by activists of the Popular Front of India on charges of insulting the Prophet in a question paper for an internal exam at Newman College, Thodupuzha, where he taught Malayalam.
While preparing a question meant for giving punctuation marks, Joseph extracted a text from a literary work of writer P T Kunhimuhammed. That was a conversation between a lunatic and God. Joseph named the lunatic as Muhammed, making it a conversation between Muhammed and God.
Days after the exam was over, certain persons at the college handed over the question paper to Muslim outfits, telling them that the Prophet was insulted. Local media also contributed to flare up communal sentiments. Joseph went into hiding, but police tortured his son, then a college student. Days later, Joseph surrendered before the police. Soon the college management, Catholic Diocese of Kothamangalam, placed him under suspension.
On July 5, while he was returning home along with family members from a local church, Joseph’s car was waylaid by a gang. After bursting a crude bomb, they pulled out Joseph from the car and chopped off his right palm. A few of the alleged accused were arrested, but the suspected conspirators are yet to be nabbed by the NIA, which had taken over the probe from Kerala police.
As Joseph was recovering from the injury and mental trauma, the college management dismissed the professor, a lone breadwinner of a family. The M G University, to which the college was affiliated, and the Left government in Kerala demanded that the professor be reinstated. But, the Catholic Church not only stuck to its adamant stand.
In the meantime, a magistrate court in Thodupuzha exonerated Joseph from the charges of insulting the Prophet. Even after the court acquitted him in 2013, Joseph was not reinstated in the college. Instead, the Church issued pastoral letters justifying their stubbornness.
His family had been traversing through severe financial crisis due to the dismissal from service. The family had been subsisting on the meager income of his daughter, a nurse then employed in Delhi, and support from well wishers. Even many of the colleagues kept away from him fearing the wrath of the College management.
“We are then buying the cheap ration rice priced at Rs 1 per kg, to reduce the expenses. Even wife Salomi was read to enroll for rural job guarantee scheme to find some money. The Church was hell-bent that I should not be reinstated. We had several times pleaded with the management to revoke the dismissal as the court had exonerated me,” said Joseph.
“Normally, dismissal from the service comes only when the court punishes a government employee. In my case, the Church resorted to the extreme step soon after the suspension,” said Joseph.
As he was slated to retire from service on March 31, 2014, Joseph kept pleading with the Church that he be allowed to join duty at least on the day of the retirement so that he would be entitled for all retirement benefits and arrears. Citing Joseph petition at the University Tribunal against his dismissal, the Church resorted to the alibi to wait until the tribunal verdict. Joseph’s argument that once he is reinstated in service his petition would turn void was not acceptable to the Church.
As hopes of Joseph, the lone breadwinner of the family, returning to college shattered, his wife Salomi, 49, hanged herself at their house at Muvattupuzha in the last week of March, 2014.
After Salomi’s death, the Church initially remained adamant on its stand. Her death due to the callous stand of the Church had triggered protest against the diocese, with many Christian organization demanded criminal case be registered against the management for abetting suicide. Under fire from civil society, the Church was willing to revoke the dismissal only to allow him retire from service. Accordingly, Joseph went to the college on March 31, only to say goodbye to the teaching profession on that evening.
Even a year after the retirement, Joseph is yet to get his salary arrears and retirement benefits. Three police men, including an additional inspector, stand guard to his house near Muvattupuzha. One or two policemen escort him in uniform wherever Joseph goes.
“Government has given me protection. But, my lone source of income is gone. If the arrears are not paid, I may even perish in penury under police protection. Now, my family is living with the support of well wishers,” said Joseph.
Joseph, who is yet to regain normal functioning of his right hand, has learnt to write with left hand. Last week, he had published a collection of essays, titled “good lessons,” which he had prepared for the college before his hand was chopped off.
“In every week, one hour of class in the college was dedicated for moral lesson. I was in charge of preparing the notes. Such notes have been compiled into a collection of essays, which was published by DC Books last week,” said Joseph.
Source:: Indian Express