A teacher of Newman College, Thodupuzha, in Idukki district of Kerala, who was attacked by extremist elements in July on the accusation that he had hurt religious sentiments by setting a question paper with certain blasphemous sentences, was dismissed from service by the college management on Saturday.

T.J. Joseph, who was the head of the college's Malayalam Department, had two more years of service.

The management had suspended him from service in March when the question paper set for an internal examination for B.Com. students created a controversy. A few organisations took to the streets in Thodupuzha and curfew was imposed in the town.

The radical activists, reportedly owing allegiance to the Popular Front of India (PFI), waylaid his car as he was returning home from church, hacked him and chopped off his right palm, in front of his mother and sister.

Thomas Malekudy, college manager and Vicar-General of the Kothamangalam Diocese, told The Hindu that Mr. Joseph could approach the court or tribunal and seek a stay on the dismissal or reinstatement.

‘Controversial question'

“He persisted with the controversial question despite the college's DTP operator telling him that it might create problems. A Muslim student wrote in his answer paper that he would not answer the question as expected since it offended his religious sentiments. Both the Bishop of the diocese and the Principal had to tender apologies, to prevent violent incidents.”

Action was taken following an enquiry led by two senior lawyers.

‘Shocking'

Mr. Joseph told The Hindu that the management's action was shocking and totally unexpected.

“I did not do any wrong and had given my explanation to the management. I was trying my best to rejoin duty, by doing physiotherapy to reactivate my severed arm which was stitched back. Dismissal is a very extreme step. Neither the 32 students who appeared for the test nor their parents have complained so far. … I did not want to hurt any community's feelings,” he said.

During the past two months, the police had arrested many PFI activists, including a few who waylaid the teachers and hacked him.

Condemned

The dismissal attracted widespread condemnation in the State. In a statement, six intellectuals, led by poet O.N.V. Kurup, said the teacher had already been harassed for a lapse which took place owing to his carelessness, ignorance or lack of adequate forethought. If it had shocked democratic Kerala, his dismissal was as cruel and inhuman as the chopping off of his hand.

He hoped that the teacher would get the sympathetic support of everyone with conscience.

Other signatories to the statement are K.N .Panikkar, historian, Ninan Koshy, thinker, and the writers U.A. Khadar, P. Valsala and George Onakkkur.

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