In March 2010, Mr. T. J. Joseph, a college lecturer in Thodupuzha, Kerala was in the news when Muslim groups protested against a controversial paper that he had set for a college degree exam. According to the protesters, the paper had a question which allegedly had some derogatory references to the Prophet. In response to these protests, Mr. Joseph was arrested and later released on bail. He was also suspended from the college pending investigations. The lecturer informed authorities that his life was in danger as he had been receiving threats from fanatic groups. He also issued a public apology for his “unintentional error”. However, on Sunday morning, 4th July, 2010, a group of unidentified assailants, attacked him, dragged him out of his car when he was returning from church with his family after attending morning's services, and hacked off his right hand as ‘punishment’.
According to authorities investigating the case, vigilantes of a fundamentalist Islamic group called the Popular Front of India (PFI) are suspected to be behind the attack. Two people have been arrested in connection to this and the authorities appear to have elicited some behind-the-scenes information from them regarding the incident. On their part, the PFI has rubbished claims that they were involved in the incident.
Many of the netizens feel that the matter has not been handled well by the authorities. Some feel that first of all, such an incident could have been well avoided.
John Cheeran writes on his blog:
Given the kind of protest the question paper had evoked and the communal nature of the issue, the government should have provided him security. But by failing to do so, it made the task of the religious ‘warriors’ easier. When Islamists threatened Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, he was given protection, not because the British government approved of his writing but because it did not want anyone to take the law into his own hands. Under the rule of law, there are laws to deal with offenders like Joseph. That job cannot be delegated to the so-called custodians of Islam who, by cutting off his palm, have shown that they have only utter contempt for the rule of law.
Though various religious groups (including Muslim groups in India and abroad) have condemned the attack, netizens have raised questions regarding the lack of noise around this incident, either among India's politicians, religious leaders as well as the MSM.
An angry Shadow Warrior points out:
note the stunning silence of the usually hyperactive christists over this…note also the stunning silence of the hyperactive pseudo-secularists and the ruling communists in kerala. conclusion: christists and communists have decided that these guys can do anything in india and get away with it. therefore they will lie low. violence, therefore, pays.
Sandeep at Rediscovery of India feels that a large section of citizens and their apathy is also partially to blame for such violence
I apportion a large part of the blame on the expanding middle and upper middle class for blissfully closing its eyes to the reality terror show unfolding before our eyes almost on a daily basis.
Well-known columnist, Tavleen Singh introspected on the role of the MSM in her tweets:
tavleen_singh: Cannot understand why the severing of a Professor's hand by Islamist militants should be such a small news item.
Jehadi violence and Taliban type justice cannot be allowed in secular India. Why is there such deafening silence?
Are we in the media becoming victims of political correctness? Would we react similarly to a Hindu attack?
How did we come to this pass where this class (middle & upper classes) places higher priority over distributing panties to a third-rate, & small-time wannabe politician over being watchful about the more real dangers that it faces? What will it take for them to wake up?
However, others refuse to get drawn into a Hindu-Muslim debate. in the comment section of this post, blogger Bhagwad Jal Park makes this clear when he says:
Let’s not make a distinction between hindu fanatics and muslim fanatics. They’re all fanatics. I’m as much disgusted over the hand cutting incident as I am over any other form of bigoted violence. There are no “Islamic Terrorists” and “Hindu Terrorists” – there are only terrorists…M F Husain’s hounding out of the country by hindu fanatics is as bad as Salman Rushdie’s hounding by the Islamic community.
Blogger Jo agrees. According to him,
The incident has to be condemned and the culprits should be brought to justice, as we cannot excuse any form of terrorism or extremism, regardless of which community it comes from – the majority or minority.
Mr. Joseph's condition is said to be stable. His hand has been reattached after a 15hour long marathon surgery, though doctors are not yet sure if he will regain the use of his right hand. Investigations will continue, and so perhaps will the debate surrounding it.