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Prof. TJ Joseph- victim without a voice

APPEAL

• On 4 July 2010 at Muvattupuzha in the Kottayam district of Kerala, India, college professor, TJ Joseph, who was on his way home after Sunday Mass with his 85 year old mother and his sister Stella (a nun associated with Catholic Church) , was pulled out of his car. They were attacked with knives, swords, axe and home made bombs. Prof. Joseph’s right hand at the wrist was chopped off and thrown a few meters away in to a neighbour’s compound. He has also suffered cuts and wounds in other parts of his body. His left hand from the wrist also has been severely damaged. His sister and aged mother also suffered injuries.

• It is the first brutal Taliban style attack executed by the radicals at the instance of ‘Dar-ul Khada’ , Sharia court of Popular Front of India.

• TJ. Joseph, a professor of Malayalam language at Newman College, Thodupuzha, set a question in the Malayalam semester examination paper for B.Com students in March 2010.Question 11 asked students to punctuate a dialogue between a character and God. The passage was based on a lecture by CPI(M) leader P. T. Kunju Muhammed and included in a book – Thirakathayude Reethisasthram (Methodology of Screenplay), published by Kerala State Institute of Languages. In the original text, the character talking to God was unnamed, in the examination; Joseph gave the character the name “Muhammed”

• The local edition of the Jamaat e Islami Hind newspaper, Madhyamam Daily carried a prominent report, sparking off the controversy alleging blasphemy. Several Muslim organisations protested against the question paper that allegedly defamed the Prophet Mohammed. The Campus Front, the Popular Front of India’s student wing, launched an agitation against the professor which concluded with this unfortunate incident.

• Joseph gave a media interview from his hospital bed, where he stated that he had used an extract from a university-approved book on the Malayalam language, and that his opponents did not give him an opportunity to explain the situation. He said that the naming of the village madcap as Muhammad had been done to represent the original author, P. T. Kunju Muhammed. Joseph’s family made a statement that they forgive the attackers.

• Prof. Joseph was initially suspended by the collage authorities but on 24 July 2010, his suspension from the college was revoked by the Mahatma Gandhi University which described the issue as an “unintentional error”. The attack on the teacher and his financial conditions were also considered. On 04 Sept 2010, the management of college terminated Prof TJ Joseph from service with effect from September under the pressure from fanatics.

• This act of barbarism points to the rise of blood-thirst driven by religious fundamentalist. That it was a planned operation carried out with brutal intent adds to the shock. The parallel system of criminal justice, being run by religious fanatics is also a matter of serious concern. Without reference to the nature of the alleged provocation behind the act, what has happened is a challenge to civilised society and the rule of law. After all, the management of the college concerned had suspended and subsequently terminated Joseph and a criminal case against Joseph was being pursued.

• With this act, what the fanatics have managed to do is to challenge the system of justice of this country and to put on the defensive all those who support the secular-democratic cause. Freedom of expression has come under attack from religious fanatics and it is the duty of society, judicial and political system to intervene more effectively to defend those who are targeted even if they express unpopular views.

• At the same time, those who work in academia and those who value intellectual freedom and creativity must respond to this challenge. All sections of society must unite to ensure that the heart-rending tragedy of a teacher making a misjudgement and ending up losing his hand to an act of Talibanesque savagery is never repeated.

• Human Rights Defense (India) (HRDI), responding to this challenge, is organising the symposium ” Prof. TJ Joseph- victim without a voice on 24th September, 2010 (friday) at 4.30 P.M. at Plenary Hall of Indian Law Institute, Opp. Supreme Court of India to discuss and understand various ramifications of this dangerous development. In the symposium, the participants shall try to fashion new tools, forge new methods , innovate new strategies and to evolve new social order to handle this extremely disturbing situation as we can not allow the “law of terror” to design our way of life.

• All concerned are requested to participate in the symposium to save and defend the secular and democratic character of our county and to extend support to us to face this challenge more effectively.

• You are further request to convey your view on the subject to HRDI at email ID rememberingjoseph@hrdi.in . We would document them and send them to Prof. Joseph and concerned authorities.

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