2010 assault in Kerala

The 2010 assault in Kerala occurred on 4 July 2010 at Muvattupuzha near Nirmala College in the Ernakulam district of Kerala, India. Joseph, a professor of Malayalam at Newman College (Thodupuzha), a Christian minority institution affiliated to Mahatma Gandhi University had his hand cut off at the wrist as punishment on allegation of blasphemy, by people belonging to Popular Front of India, a confederation of radicals fanatic Muslim fundamentalist and extremis organizations in South India.

Some reports indicate the attack resulted from a ruling from a “Taliban-model” court. However, the state minister made a statement that government doesn’t have information of such court, but there is a local Dar-ul Khada functioning to resolve civil disputes in Kerala; these were formed under the supervision of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in different states.

TJ Joseph, a professor of Malayalam language at Newman College, Thodupuzha, set a question in the Malayalam semester examination paper for BCom students in March 2010. In the examination, question 11 asked students to punctuate a dialogue between a character and God. The title of the question was to put proper marks i.e. comma, question mark or exclamation mark in the sentences.

The dialogue was viewed by some as derogatory. According to the constitution of India part III article 19; “All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.”[20] But some argued that a question paper could not be considered as a platform for individual expression. However, the passage was based on a lecture by Malayalam film director 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, Kunju Muhammed is explaining about a scene in his movie Garshom, Murali is a NRI return madly talking himself. The evolution of Murali’s character is from a real life person PT had met (unnamed Schizophrenia patient) near the road who is talking to God. Joseph named the Schizophrenia character as Muhammed in the question paper, which may be referring to the author Kunju Muhammed, while making it seem like a dialogue between God and Muhammed, the prophet.

The local edition of the Madhyamam Daily reported the incident, sparking off the controversy alleging blasphemy. Several Muslim organisations protested the alleged defamation of the Prophet Mohammed. The Campus Front, the Popular Front of India’s student wing, launched an agitation against the professor. Student groups affiliated to the Indian National Congress and the Indian Union Muslim League also marched towards the college in protest. Copies of the question paper was circulated in sensitive areas by various Muslim organizations.

On 4 July 2010, a group of eight people in a Maruti Omni waylaid the Professor near his home at Muvattupuzha. Joseph was pulled out of his car along with his sister and 85 year old mother. They were attacked with knives, swords, axe and home made bombs. Prof. Joseph’s right hand at the wrist was chopped off and thrown away. He also suffered wounds to other parts of his body. His left hand from the wrist also have been severely damaged. His sister and aged mother of 85 years old also suffered injuries. According to police, the attack was carried out by an eight member team consisting of Savad of Asamannoor, Pareeth of North Vazhakkulam, Shobin of Kothamangalam, Nazar of Aluva, Shajil of Muvattupuzha, Shamsuddin of Perumbavoor, Shanvas and Jamal.

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