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Sunday , September 5 , 2010
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kerala teacher with hacked palm sacked by college

Thiruvananthapuram, Sept. 4: Palm sewed back, the college teacher was getting “mentally prepared” to rejoin when the sack order came.

The Catholic management at Newman College in Kottayam today fired lecturer T.J. Joseph, whose palm was chopped off by religious fundamentalists for an allegedly derogatory reference to the Prophet in a question paper.

The management said it was terminating his services with effect from September 1 for hurting religious sentiments, but added that it was leaving the case to the courts and the Muslim community’s “discretion”.

Joseph, convalescing at home with his re-attached palm, said it was an “unexpected blow”.

“I was getting mentally prepared to get back to work, hoping they would revoke my suspension,” the lecturer, who belongs to the pro-CPM All Kerala Private College Teachers Association, said.

The management, which had set up an inquiry committee, said Joseph had been sacked because he refused to withdraw the derogatory reference. But the college said it would review its decision on court orders or if the Muslim community so desired.

The management “now leaves his case to the discretion of the court or the Muslim community, which is hurt by his thoughtless action”, it said.

Education minister M.A. Baby said the punishment was in excess of the offence and “irrationally negative”.

“He has suffered enough…. The government will be of assistance if he wants to seek legal recourse. He can approach the university tribunal for redress.”

“The action exceeds all proportions,” PTI quoted the minister as saying.

The government’s offer of help to Joseph comes at a time Kerala’s ruling CPM is battling an erosion of votes from two key minority communities in the state — Muslims and Christians. Baby’s comment may reflect a bid to woo back the Christians.

College sources said the management wanted to be seen as politically correct but wouldn’t mind Baby “bailing out” the lecturer.

Joseph had been waylaid by activists linked to a radical Islamic outfit, the Popular Front of India (PFI), while returning home with his family after Sunday Mass on July 4.

Most of those held for the grisly attack belong to the minority community. The police, criticised for failing to protect the lecturer, have picked up some 30 PFI activists but some of the assailants are believed to be still at large.

The college management had suspended Joseph soon after the controversial reference in a passage he had set for punctuation. The attack came some three months later.

“This is the harshest punishment me and my family could get,” Joseph said. He added that he had “not thought of any legal action so far” against the management.

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