In a significant breakthrough, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has arrested the final accused in the Kerala professor’s hand-chopping case, 13 years after the crime took place.
The arrested individual, Savad, was an activist associated with the banned Popular Front of India. He mutilated the right palm of Professor TJ Joseph, accusing him of making derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed in a question paper for B Com students at Newman College in Idukki district’s Thodupuzha. Savad, who had a ₹10 lakh reward on his head, was apprehended in Mattannur in Kerala’s Kannur district.
The professor was assaulted with his family after attending Sunday morning mass on July 4, 2010. The assailants also detonated a bomb before fleeing the scene.
The attackers reportedly informed the professor that he was being punished for his alleged sacrilegious reference to the Prophet in the question paper for second-year students.
Although a police case was registered the same day in Ernakulam District, the NIA subsequently took over the investigation. Nineteen individuals have been convicted in the case so far, with three receiving life sentences and ten others sentenced to eight years of rigorous imprisonment.
All the accused were either leaders or activists of the Popular Front of India or the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) and were actively involved in the criminal conspiracy leading to the attack, according to the NIA. Savad, identified as the primary accused, was charged on January 10, 2011.
The attack on the professor played a role in the ban on the Popular Front of India.
Professor Joseph recounted the incident in a 2015 interview, explaining that before the attack, there had been three attempts on his life at his home. On the day of the assault, the attackers blocked his car, broke the glass, and pulled him out. They injured him and severed his right hand. He underwent a hand transplantation and four more surgeries afterward.
The controversy began with a question paper Joseph set for a class test, where he casually named a character Muhammad in a punctuation correction exercise. The professor started receiving threats after the test, leading to his suspension and later dismissal by the college.
Four years after the attack, Joseph’s wife, Salomy, died by suicide on March 20, 2014. Her death prompted significant protests, leading to the professor’s reinstatement on the day of his retirement.