The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday, January 10, arrested the key accused in the hand-chopping case of Professor TJ Joseph in Kerala, after 13 years. The accused, 38-year-old Savad, who has been absconding for more than a decade, was arrested from Kannur.
Joseph was the faculty of the Newman College at Thodupuzha in Idukki. On July 4, 2010, he was attacked, and his right hand was chopped off by the members of the Popular Front of India (PFI), a radical Muslim group, who alleged that a question in an internal examination he conducted had inflammatory remarks on Prophet Mohammed. The attack took place while Joseph was returning home along with his family after attending Sunday mass.
The attackers were a group of seven people and Savad was the main accused. He absconded with the axe used to chop the hand. In March of last year, the NIA announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for anyone who could help trace Savard.
Last year, an NIA special Court convicted six persons. The court awarded a life sentence to the second accused Sajil (36), the third accused MK Nasar (46) and the fifth accused KA Najeeb (42). A three-year jail term has been awarded to the other three convicts, P P Moideen Kunhu (60), MK Naushad (48) and PM Ayoob (48).
In the first phase of the trial, held in April 2015, the NIA court had convicted 13 persons and acquitted 18 others.
What triggered the radical group was a Malayalam question paper Joseph wrote, in which he had selected a paragraph from a short story by CPI(M) leader PT Kunju Mohammed to test students on punctuation. In the story, a nameless village madcap questions god. When setting the question, Joseph had named him Mohammed. This created a controversy after a newspaper affiliated with the Jamaat-e-Islami carried the news with prominence.