Prof. Joseph – The Victim Without a Voice
Good evening to everyone, the speakers and participants of this symposium – “Prof. Joseph, the victim without a voice”. I am Sr. Marie Stella, the elder sister of Prof. Joseph of Newman College Thodupuzha, whose right hand was chopped off, by the fundamentalists, on July 4th. I belong to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Cluny, whose headquarters is in Paris, France.
I am very grateful to Mr. Rajesh Gogna, and all the HRD members, for organizing this symposium, “Prof. Joseph –the victim without a voice”, and for inviting my brother and myself to this august gathering. As both of us are not able to travel, I speak to you over the phone.
At the outset itself, I would like to say few lines about Prof. Joseph. Joseph is born in a very simple, ordinary, agricultural family. He struggled a lot to study as the family had financial constraints. He is very intelligent and a good reader too. After his studies he got a job in one of the Church run colleges in 1985. Since then he teaches…He loves art and drama and makes his classes very interesting for students. His students speak highly of him. He is also the Director of “Value Education Cel” since 2008, the year he arrived in Newman College, Thodupuzha.
He got married to Salomy Sebastian in 1986 and has two children, Mithun aged 23, who is doing his MBA after his BTec; and Amy aged 20, who is studying for B.Sc nursing, 3rd year. Joseph is a good husband and an understanding and loving father to his children.
Joseph is very patient, hardworking, and speaks the truth. He speaks out his mind when he thinks it is right, and he stands for justice. He respects all religions.
Prof. Joseph took the passage, for the controversial question, from P.T. Kunju Muhammed’s “Thirukkadha…oru viswasiyude Kandethalukal” (screen play- the Findings of a Believer) which is a university- prescribed text. He substituted “Muhammed” for “Madman”, in the question paper because the “Madman” calls God, “Padachone”, the Malayalam word for “Creator” which only Muslims use.
So it was obvious that the “madman” was a Muslim. So why not give him a Muslim name, instead of just “madman”, he thought. After all, the writer of the book is also a Muhammed. The thought that “Muhammed” could be construed as the “Prophet Muhammed” would not have crossed his mind. It is actually a good question because only a student who knows all the punctuation marks like colon, semi-colon, coma, question mark, exclamation mark, hyphen and full stop, can answer it correctly.
Unfortunately, this controversial question paper was misinterpreted, misjudged and Prof. Joseph became a “Victim without a voice”.
On the morning of July 4th, Prof. Joseph, our 83 year old mother and I, were returning home, in our car, after having attended morning Mass, at the Nirmala Matha Church in Muvattupuzha.
About 20 meters from our house, an Omni van came at high speed, and braked in front of our car. Around eight men jumped out carrying long knives and axes. Immediately, we knew, something was wrong. They rushed towards our car and tried to open the door. Joseph and I held it with all our strength. With an axe they smashed the front windshield and the windowpanes. Joseph was pulled out from one door and I from the other. I was pushed and held against a wall. A man held my throat and choked me. I tried to call out but no sound came out. I could see bystanders watching silently from a distance. With a mighty God-given strength I pushed the man and cried out loudly shouting “come and save us, come and save us”…
He caught me tight again and I tried to escape and he pointed the dagger at me. I saw the men chop my brother’s hands and legs, as if it was firewood. Joseph cried and shouted, “don’t kill me, don’t kill me”…My mother who suffers from Alzymers disease, came out of the car, stood between the men and hit them ineffectually on their backs with her umbrella. She shouted and cried out, “don’t kill my son, don’t kill my son”…
Hearing me shout, Joseph’s wife Salomy and the two children who were on week-end leave at home came out. Seeing the situation Amy ran back home and phoned to the Police. As Mithun advanced they threw a handmade bomb at him. He ran through it and came near his father. When they saw him coming, the man who held me, left me and threw Mithun to the school ground which is about 18 feet high. His back was fully bruised but thank God he escaped without major injuries. Meanwhile Joseph’s right hand was chopped off and one of the assailants flung it into a neighbour’s garden. When I reached my brother’s side, the man caught me again. Desperately, Mithun ran and came near his father. By then the men got into their van and left the place. I had just the time to memorize the number of their vehicle AD 7201. Joseph was bathed in blood, he head many injuries on his left hand, left leg, and also the right hand below the elbow.
This incident has not only affected us but also the people of Kerala. We live in fear. To live in fear is not healthy, not good for society and certainly not good for our nation, as Ravindra Natha Tagore has said “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”.
I also want to say that each one of us have a right to live in a fearless society. So I request this august gathering to ensure that these kinds of incidents are never repeated in future, so that all of us can live with dignity and without fear, respecting every human being regardless of their caste, colour or religion.
I would like to thank the organizers of this symposium for inviting me to be a part of it. My special thanks go to Rajesh Gogna for contacting me and for taking all the troubles to see that I participate in this symposium. Yes, he has not left any stone unturned in this regard.
Let this symposium bring justice and freedom of expression to all the citizens of India.
And finally, I say with Ravindra Natha Tagore, “Into that heaven of freedom my Father, let my country awake”.
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