An NIA court in Kochi on Thursday found 13 people guilty in the sensational case pertaining to the chopping of the hand of a professor on charges of insulting Prophet Mohammed in a question paper. The court acquitted 18 others for want of evidence. Five accused, including the key conspirator, are still absconding although the NIA had taken over the probe from Kerala Police in 2011.
Of the 13 accused found guilty, 10 had direct involvement in the attack on profession T J Joseph and were charged under Unlawful Activities Prevention Act apart from attempt-to-murder and rioting. The three others were involved in giving cover for the assailants.
All the accused were activists of a Muslim outfit, Popular Front of India. The sentence would be pronounced on May 5.
Reacting to the verdict, Joseph said: “In the court of my conscience I pardoned them long ago. In future, no teacher should be punished like this for a non-issue. The police should not have acted (arrested him) on a baseless allegation. I had not insulted the Prophet. The police unnecessarily arrested me, put me in lock up. They made me a target for fanatical elements.”
Jospeh’s right palm was chopped of by PFI activists on July 4, 2010 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 some Muslim outfits, telling them that the Prophet was insulted. Local media also flared 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 with his family 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.
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 stuck to its adamant stand.
In the meantime, a magistrate court in Thodupuzha exonerated Joseph from the charges of insulting the Prophet, but he was not reinstated.
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.