On July 4, 2010, Professor T J Joseph of Newman College, Thodupuzha, was attacked by an armed gang that chopped off his right palm with an axe allegedly because he had insulted the Prophet in a question paper.
A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Kochi on Wednesday found six people guilty and acquitted five others in connection with the 2010 case where the palm of a college professor in Kerala was chopped off because he allegedly insulted Prophet Mohammed in a question paper.
NIA judge Anil Bhaskar will pronounce the quantum of punishment on Thursday.
The verdict came in the second phase of trial based on a supplementary chargesheet filed against 11 people. In 2015, in the first phase of trial, the court had delivered a verdict against 31 accused, finding 13 guilty and acquitting 18 others.
All the accused were activists of the Popular Front of India, an outfit that was banned in 2022. The 11 accused named in the supplementary chargesheet were absconding at the time of the first trial and later either surrendered or were arrested by the NIA. The first accused Savad, who had chopped off the professor’s palm, is still absconding.
On July 4, 2010, Professor T J Joseph of Newman College, Thodupuzha, was attacked by an armed gang allegedly because he had insulted the Prophet in a question paper for an internal college exam. The exam was held in March and days later, a controversy erupted over the question paper, leading to protests by Muslim outfits in the state. Joseph was arrested and later granted bail in the case.
As per the prosecution, the gang, armed with weapons and explosive materials, attacked Professor Joseph, chopped off his right palm with an axe and tried to kill him. The accused were charge-sheeted under several sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Explosive Substances Act.
The NIA, which took over the probe from the Kerala Police, had found that the attack was an act of terrorism and slapped UAPA against the accused.
Those found guilty on Wednesday are Sajil Makkar, M K Nazer, Najeeb, M K Noushad, P P Moideen Kunju and P M Ayoob. While Makkar had taken part in the attack, Nazer, a state committee member of the PFI, was identified as one of the key conspirators. Shafeeq, Azeez Odakkali, Mohammed Rafi, Manzoor and T P Subair are the accused who were acquitted.
Reacting to the verdict, Joseph, now retired, said that he does not believe that conviction of an accused means deliverance of justice to the victim. “Those who attacked me were only weapons. The real perpetrators of the crime, the persons who planned and gave tasks to the assailants are still at large. I have only the curiosity of any ordinary citizen in this verdict,” he said. Joseph’s palm was later sutured back at a hospital in Kochi.
Joseph said he believed that the accused were victims of a “barbaric rule”. “It is high time that we become modern men imbibing humanity and scientific temper. I suffered several losses in the incident. But I hope my trauma will turn instrumental for the emergence of a new generation, which is free from the influence of barbaric norms of the past,” he added.
Joseph was attacked at Muvattupuzha in Ernakulam district, metres away from his house, while he was returning home after attending Sunday prayers at a local church. He was pulled out of his car and attacked in the presence of his mother and sister. The gang also burst an explosive to create a scare.
Months after Joseph was attacked, the Catholic management of Newman College had suspended him from service. Despite demands from the state government, civil society and the university that Joseph be reinstated, the Catholic Church did not take any action in his favour. On March 20, 2014, Joseph’s wife Salomy died by suicide, allegedly dejected by the Church’s reluctance to reinstate Joseph, the sole breadwinner of the family. Joseph had said then that the Church’s action had pained him more than the PFI attack.
With Salomy’s death sparking a wave of protests against the Church, Joseph was reinstated on March 31, 2014, on the day of his retirement.