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India: Selective About Denouncing Violence?

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?

For some, this so called ‘silence’ appears more pronounced when compared with the buzz generated by the pink chaddi campaign. Sandeep, for one, is upset:

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.

Update: Some more reactions to the incident can be found here and here.

14 comments

  • jmuhj1

    We need to show respect. If we do this, much if not all violence is avoided.

  • Jonathan

    What’s a “Christist”? You mean like….an Islamist? Obviously that Hindu saffronazi is trying to group Christians and Islamic extremists together.

  • Jo

    Aparna

    I am surprised that you chose to quote people like Rajeev (Shadow Warrier) to summarize the responses to the incident. Your list has a very limited linking, consists mostly of the extreme rightist views (and am surprised to find my name in the list) but has totally ignored the responses and questions paused by bloggers like Dilip Dsouza or Abinandan (Nanopolitan), which in turn would make people ask the question “why the silence?”

    For a blog like Global Voices Online, I would say the priority should be given to the content and not just any out-on-the-street-shouting. I mean, look at the people like Rajeev who has been defending the perpetrators of violence when they come in the saffron robe all along. And now the sudden outrage on this issue? And see how eager he is to link “Christists” to “Islamists” as they always do – link one enemy with another enemy and hold them as targets always. Like they link Church with the Maoists.

    Church is not silent on the issue as Rajeev implies or if you care to read local newspapers. But what does Rajeev want? Pope asking Christians to go out on the street and slain Muslims for this? “Let them fight each other and die” kind of strategy is what shadow warriors may prefer, but that is not the civilized response.

    Oh yeah, and he cleverly take this time to quote the murder of Jayakrishnan master (a BJP politician) by Communists. A teacher being hacked before school children is nothing more shocking than a husband being killed in front of his wife and his own little children or a son being killed infront of his mother. Kannur has witnessed such political violence from BOTH sides (RSS/BJP and CPM). Not just Communists.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Rajeev said Pope himself made a ploy to chop off the hands of the Professor using Islamists, but a blog like Global Voices linking to such crap? Pathetic.

    • ss

      What are your views about Christian violence in the north-east and the Nagaland for Christ movement?

  • @Jonathan – your interesting query sent me looking for the origin, meaning and usage of the word ‘Christist’. Here is what I found.

    One of the earliest mentions of this term can be found in the writing of the Brazilian author Marcelo Motta who wrote the following in his edition of Magick Without Tears – a book originally penned by the English occultist Aleister Crowley:

    “Second, we have changed the term “Christianity” and its derivates to the term “Christism”, wherever it is clear in the text that Crowley is not speaking about legitimate Christianity of which we are the heirs, but of the Roman-Alexandrine con-game and its later branches. The term “Christism” was invented by Fernando Pessoa, the great Portuguese poet who became Crowley’s pupil, King of the O.T.O. in Portugal, and eventually the first Thelemically trained Master of the Temple in a Latin country.”

    A more current discussion regarding the meaning and usage of the term can be found here [ http://ask.metafilter.com/43776/What-does-Christist-mean ]

    • Jose Barreto

      No, the terms “Christism” and “Christist” were not invented by Fernando Pessoa at all. He borrowed them from secularist John M. Roberstson’s books on Christianity, Pagan Christs, etc. Robertson did not invent those terms either…

  • This is so disturbing to find fellow Muslims who think that violence can fight / deal with “ideas”. Ideas should never be dealt with violence since “Ideas are bulletproof”. Ideas should be only dealt with ideas, period.

  • Jo

    I see my comment awaiting moderation though the comment after the posted time has been published. Is there a problem with comment moderation?

  • @Jo: On Global Voices we attempt to cover all sides of a story as is being discussed online (be it from the Left, Right or Center) and generate a conversation around it. Shadow Warrior is only one opinion amongst the many, as is yours and the others quoted here. The idea was to bring out that while there were some people with extreme reactions, others had taken a more balanced view of the matter. However, thanks for pointing out Dilip’s post which I had missed. Will add it as an update.

  • Thomson

    As Jo, mentioned Church is not silent on the issue. Today all the students, professors and non teaching staff of Newman College of the Professor is holding fasting and joint prayer meeting of all faiths.

    I do think that this barbaric act has only generated selective response. Almost all the social leaders except Justice Krishna Ayyer has not even made any press release. There is all hypocrisy around. No one can imagine how the uneducated Muslim terrorists painters, welders – the lot which make the fundamentalist Popular front of India can plan such a barbaric act so meticulously with lakhs of rupees !

    http://www.kenneyjacob.com/2010/07/05/the-controversial-question-paper-and-some-truths/ has some details.

  • I was asked this same question on my blog today. And I must admit, it made me think.

    All forms of violence must be condemned. We participated in the protest against an Iranian woman yesterday sentenced to death by stong and we all were outraged over the lashings received by a young woman by the Taliban.

    What the religion of a person is should make zero difference.

  • […] off the hand of a person has catalyzed this debate. Lots of people feel that not enough people are getting upset over it as opposed to the outrage following Pramod Muthalik’s infamous pub attack. Here was one […]

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