Simple barbarism has become routine in India. There is a thickheaded ruthlessness in creating issues, as is once again painfully evident in the case of the lecturer, T.J. Joseph, in Newman College in Kottayam, Kerala. In July, Mr Joseph was attacked by thugs who cut off his palm. His offence was an allegedly derogatory religious reference in a question paper, for which he had already been suspended by the college authorities. What is intriguing is that the attack came three months later, as if his presumed insult had taken all that time to sink in. The perpetrators are reportedly part of a fairly new group called the Popular Front of India, which is alleged to have close links with a banned fundamentalist outfit. But it is the sequence of events that is fascinating.
The gap in time between apparent offence and barbaric revenge suggests that someone needed an issue to work up. Then, just as Mr Joseph was beginning to recover and hoping to rejoin college, he was sacked. Barbarism is routine, but it is also being encouraged, and the fierce unreason it represents is being given precedence over even the rudimentary appearance of justice. Here one minority religious group, represented by the management of Mr Josephs college, seems anxious to be on the right side of the other. There is no harm in the harmony of many religions, but truckling to violent, lawless thugs should not be mistaken for harmony. Now that the issue has been created, however, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led government of the state is hinting that it would support Mr Joseph in a fight for justice. The official view is that he has been punished disproportionately. The CPI(M) may be trying to win back its Christian voters, but would that be at the cost of the Muslim vote? Newman College is on the side of the offended community anyway. And is the PFI pleased to have seized attention?