After being accused of defaming the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran in a question paper he had assigned, Kerala-based professor TJ Joseph had his hand severed by members of the extremist Islamist Popular Front of India (PFI) 12 years and two months ago.
Joseph leads a humble existence in Muvattupuzha, where he spends his time reading and writing. Since his attack in 2010, he has released four novels, all of which were written using his left hand, which he learned to use after having his right hand amputated.
The serene front belies the turbulent life Joseph has endured since the attack. In addition to losing his job and having his wife commit suicide because she was unable to handle the burden of the continual danger her family was in, he is still waiting for the day when the police would apprehend the “true criminals.” “back of his assault.
When asked Joseph about the ongoing raids on PFI leaders and offices across the nation, he said, “I want to know why the main people, the top rung of the PFI who ordered the attack on me, the masterminds, are walking around scot-free. Those booked were lower-rung PFI members, the ones who attacked me.”
After the raids, Joseph said it was high time the group was outlawed and its members were put in jail.
“Their actions, programmes, and participation in different terrorist acts show that they pose a threat to national security. For the sake of national security, it is crucial to destroy this terrorist organisation PFI since they have participated in several attacks over the years. Such organisations pose a threat to our nation, and the government needs to impose the strongest penalties to achieve their total annihilation, he told the media.
He wants to leave the terrible day he was assaulted in the past, even if he thinks that talking about it has wrecked his life. Joseph responds that he has made peace with himself when asked if he gets angry whenever the PFI name is associated with an assault or a mention of his attack.
“I want the major PFI organisers, the criminal brains, to be detained, and I want PFI to be outlawed as an organisation. What good does encouraging hatred be after my attack? I have the fortitude because of my moral principles to get past the terrible occurrence without being enraged or hostile against my assailants.
But the main goal is to eliminate the terror group PFI from our nation, he continued.
Over 100 of the PFI’s leaders were detained on Thursday as a result of a multi-agency, multi-state operation against the organisation.
According to a news release from the National Investigation Agency, “Numerous criminal proceedings have been filed by several states over the last few years against the PFI and its leaders and members for their involvement in numerous violent crimes.
Criminal acts of violence committed by PFI, such as the amputation of a college professor’s hand, the cold-blooded killing of individuals affiliated with groups that support other faiths, the gathering of explosives to target notable individuals and locations, support for the Islamic State, and the destruction of public property, have clearly had the effect of instilling fear in the minds of the populace.
The autobiography of the Malayalam professor, “Attupokatha Ormakal” (Unforgettable Memories), just took home a Kerala Sahitya Akademi prize. The title of the English translation of the book is “A Thousand Cuts: An Innocent Question And Deadly Answers.”
The professor believes that the nation is seeing more religious extremism and division more than ten years after the terrifying assault on him, which is reflected in the many arguments people have.
In his book, Joseph shares his heartfelt account of how, when he most needed emotional support, he had to deal with false accusations, financial setbacks, and social exclusion. He claimed that while those who assaulted him were fanatical and misguided by their religious convictions, it was those who abandoned him after the attack that caused him the most harm.
In March 2010, the terrifying account of Joseph’s assault got underway. The lecturer had a position as a professor at Kerala’s Idukki district’s Newman College, Thodupuzha.
He once asked a question that was deemed to be offensive to the second-year Malayalam B Com students. In order to assess the student’s knowledge of punctuation, the lecturer had taken a passage from the book “Thirakathayude Reethisasthram,” which was authored by Malayalam filmmaker PT Kunju Muhammed. The focus of the short narrative he chose was an unnamed peasant with schizophrenia whom Joseph gave the name “Mohammed.”
After a local Malayalam daily connected to Jamaat-e-Islami made the headline, a significant debate broke out. Numerous Islamic organisations, including the extreme PFI, conducted a series of agitations while the debate raged, turning the normally tranquil towns of Muvattupuzha and Thodupuzha into a boiling pot of inter-communal strife.
The professor ran away from his house since he was now being sought by the authorities for inciting neighbourhood unrest. He was apprehended after being on the run for many weeks, and he was detained for 10 days before being released on bond.
He struggled to find work and make ends meet after being informed by the college administration that he had been fired after he got home.
Six assailants brandishing an axe forcedly halted the professor’s automobile on the tragic day of July 4, 2010, as he was returning from church. His right hand was then severed below the wrist. Later, they dumped the severed hand on some adjacent property. Joseph was also stabbed in the leg and arm by the attackers, who then fled the scene while he was still bleeding on the road.
The incident marked the start of the catastrophes that would soon befall Joseph.
“I had been fired. I received financial assistance from a few kind people and families so that I could pay for my medical care and daily food needs.
For three or four years, we managed to subsist. The court cleared my identity and declared that I could not be held accountable for using the name Mohammed since it was not done with the aim to offend religious sensibilities when my case was brought before the court after the police filed a report to prosecute me, he added.
Joseph remembered the difficulties his family had to endure, and on March 19, 2014, his sad wife Salomi, who had developed depression as a result of the incident’s aftermath, took her own life.
The trial against 31 defendants in the case was concluded by the NIA Special Court in Ernakulam on April 30, 2015, and 13 defendants were found guilty of a variety of offences, including those under the UA (P) Act for carrying out the terrorist act.
Six defendants, including Mansoor, were included in the third supplemental charge sheet the NIA filed in this case on June 1, 2017. They were charged with violating sections 118, 341, 427, 324, 326, 506, 201, 202, 212, 153(A), and 307 r/w 120B of the Indian Penal Code.