Catholic professor wins blasphemy case after three-year fight
Kerala lecturer had hand chopped off by Muslim mob
More than three years after Muslim fanatics chopped off his hand, a Catholic college professor was acquitted by a court in Kerala on charges of insulting Islam.
The court in Thodupuzha on Wednesday accepted TJ Joseph’s plea that he did not intend to insult the Prophet after setting an exam asking students to add punctuation to a dialogue between Mohammed, God and a dog, an animal disliked in the Islamic world.
“The verdict is a great relief for me,” he said. “I’m alive to hear it. I thank God for supporting me during this testing hour.”
Lawyer and activist Sebastian Paul welcomed the verdict, adding that Kerala had “witnessed its first Taliban-style” incident in the state.
The ordeal began in March 2010 when a local Muslim newspaper reported that Joseph had set an exam question insulting the Prophet Mohammed, sparking controversy over alleged blasphemy.
Following demonstrations and public rallies in the town demanding action against Joseph in April, police registered a case of inciting religious hatred and he was arrested but soon released.
In July of the same year, members of the radical group the Social Democratic Party of India chopped Joseph’s right hand off as he was returning from Sunday Mass.
Before the attack, Newman College in Thodupuzha suspended him from his teaching job, a move it said was necessary to maintain religious harmony.
“I’ve been fighting my case since then,” said Joseph, who has a wife and daughter. “In fact, the action taken by the college management pained me more than the attack.”
Without a salary, the family struggled to pay medical bills and fund legal fees to fight the case. Joseph’s last battle was to reclaim his teaching job, he said.
Newman’s principal, T.M. Joseph, said the college had not taken any new decision.
“I don’t think this verdict will have any bearing on that case,” he said.
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