PROF TD Joseph who is the head of the department of Malayalam in Newman’s College, Thodupuzha in Idukki district was attacked on July 4, 2010 after, he was returning home, attending the Sunday mass at Nirmala church near his home along with his eighty eight-year old mother and his sister who is a nun in Newzealand.
A group of Islamic fundamentalists who are the cadres and leaders of the Islamic fundamentalist organisation Popular Front of India chopped off his right hand after dragging him out of his car in front of his ailing old mother and elder sister. The reason for this action on Prof Joseph was that he had prepared a question paper for the internal exams of Malayalam paper for the second year BCom students of his college and which contained certain references which were considered blasphemous to Prophet Mohammed and thereby Islamic faith.
This question paper incident occurred on March 26, 2010 and after the state Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan ordering a criminal inquiry into the incident the Professor was arrested and remanded to judicial custody. The police had also tortured his son Mithun who was doing his Engineering course as Prof Joseph was absconding for some days in the fear of arrest.
There were protest marches in Thodupuzha by the Islamic groups and even Congress and Muslim League joined in it .The college management and the Christian diocese also apologised on behalf of the teacher to people if their faith was insulted as alleged by the Popular Front activists.
The judicial enquiry against the issue is still on
Meanwhile the Popular Front of India, which is fast emerging as the terror link in Kerala issued open threats against the teacher and openly asserted that the right hand of Prof Joseph would be chopped off. There were three or four attempts earlier on this but the police even after being informed did not provide him any security.
After the chopping incident, Police swung into action and arrested two Popular Front activists, Ashraf and Jaffer. Ashraf is considered to be the brain behind this action. However on interrogation Ashraf told police that an Islamic Court Darul Khada (God’s court or Gods abode), which is functioning in Erattuepetta in Kottayam district had sentenced to chop off the right hand of Prof Joseph and that he and his group had only implemented the fatwa or the sentence of the Islamic court.
The police on further investigation found that there were Islamic courts which were modelled in Taliban style in different parts of the state and one Eaasa Moulavi who was once a close associate of the PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madani was the person behind this Islamic court or Darul Khada.
However highly placed sources in the state police told Organiser that the police has not opened about this Darul Khada for fear of creating a major issue in the state and society as such. Sources in the police also said that the Islamic court was trying to interfere in all issues concerning the Muslim community in the state and that the Popular Front was behind this. The Islamic court or Darul Khada was trying to interfere in even family disputes and divorce cases in the Muslim community and is also campaigning among the Muslims in the state to reduce their dependence on the state police and the court of law as in Islam it is the religion and the religious court which is the foremost.
Another interesting aspect to the fundamentalist nature shown by the Popular Front is the storm created at the Sacret Heart Higher Secondary School in Malappuram district over the issue of an Arabic lady teacher wearing mafta( veil).
The Popular Front activists with the support of the Edarikkode Panchayath president and the local police officers have staged dharna and protest marches in front of the school and has issued a fatwa against the Principal to leave the school for good or would otherwise be burnt to death. The issue was a rather innocent comment made by the Principal on the mafta worn by the then Arabic teacher Rasiya. The Principal had joked that if the scarf was on both sides of the shoulder it would look more beautiful. The teacher did not like it and had made small issues in the staff room on this. When she came to know that the Arabic teacher did not liked her comment, the Principal had apologised and settled the issue.The Arabic teacher later left the school for getting a better placement and was accorded a warm send off at the behest of the Principal. However several months after she left the school, Rasiya, the Arabic teacher complained to local authorities that she was insulted by Sister Tessy Anto, the Principal of Sacred Heart school on wearing of mafta. This was taken up by the Popular Front activists who have now issued a fatwa on the Principal to quit the school.
Sources in the police and district administration told Organiser that there were certain schools in the area controlled by Islamists who wants to somehow close the Sacred Heart school for non issues as there were less students in schools controlled by the Islamists. The sources said that this was the actual issue rather than any major one. However the Popular Front activists created a situation of fear and dread in the school by barging into the Principal’s room and to threatening her with dire consequences if she did not quit the school.
Of late several schools run by Non Muslim managements are facing this predicament with the Popular Front creating noisy scenes throughout the state on non issues like wearing mafta and threatening the school managements and the teachers with dire consequences including threat to their lives. This is slowly creating a fear psychosis in the state which is exactly what the Islamists wanted to do for their own ulterior motives.
The silence of several human rights activists on the chopping off hand of Prof Joseph and the death threat on Sister Tessy Anto including noted journalist BRP Bhaskar and Gro Vasu chopping of hand of Prof Joseph and the death threat on Sister Tessy Anton is being hotly discussed in the intellectual circles of the state.