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Prof Joseph: Dismissal more painful than attack

By A Ganesh Nadar
September 23, 2010 17:59 IST
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Professor T J Joseph, who was dismissed by his college after his hand was chopped off by Islamic activists, speaks to's A Ganesh Nadar.

Professor T J Joseph, whose hand was chopped off on July 4, allegedly by activists of an Islamic organisation, says his dismissal from Newman College, Thodupuzha, Kerala, was more painful than the attack.

He says he pleaded with the college and church authorities to take him back. But they refused and gave him the harshest punishment, which means that he will lose his benefits and pension despite working at Newman College for over 25 years.

He plans to go to court next week against the dismissal.

The controversy began over a paper that Professor Joseph set for his students in an internal exam.

After the exam concluded there were violent protests around the college.

The professor was suspended and the police registered a case against him. He was arrested, but obtained bail.

While returning from mass on July 4, Professor Joseph was attacked by assailants who chopped off his hand.

On September, 1, he was dismissed by the college management.

College manager Reverend Thomas Malekudy told, "Professor Joseph was supposed to teach moral science to students. He did not admit his fault and did not apologise. In his written reply to our show cause notice all he says is 'Pardon me for what happened.' We have dismissed him."

"He has gone to court. The matter is sub judice and I cannot talk about it," adds Malekudy though Professor Joseph says he will only file a petition next week."

"I have approached the management many times," says Professor Joseph, "but they are not relenting, so I am compelled to go to court. I will ask for reinstatement."

He says he has approached his church, the Kothamangalam diocese, many times. Priests there advised him to go to court.

He received a show cause notice from the Newman College management a week after he was discharged from hospital.

The notice said he was going to be dismissed from service and the college authorities wanted him to give his representation.

In his reply, he says he pleaded with them. "I set the paper, but I had no intention of hurting the sentiments of Muslims or anyone else. If I have caused any misunderstanding, please pardon me and take me back."

The college replied with the dismissal order.

Adds his sister Stella, "He is in great pain. The physiotherapy is very painful. Sometimes he faints. On seeing the dismissal order he was shocked. Tears rolled down his eyes."

Professor Joseph has two children. His son is in the first year of an MBA course. His daughter is studying BSc (nursing). Both children live in hostels, hence the cost of education for both is high. His wife is not employed.

Stella says the college had seven punishments they could have given, but the authorities chose the harshest.

They could have given Professor Joseph compulsory retirement or any other punishment, she says. Now he has lost everything.

Her brother, she adds, has only three years to retirement.

"He did not feel so much pain even when the attackers chopped his hand," she points out.

After he received the dismissal letter, Professor Joseph again wrote to the manager.

'I have already received punishment,' he wrote. 'I have been attacked. There is a case against me. In the name of Jesus please take me back.'

He says the college told him the dismissal had come about because he had not apologised for his error.

He explained that after he obtained bail he had met the bishop and asked to be pardoned.

He also met the college manager and asked to be pardoned.

He had also apologised in front of the media.

He had also admitted that he had set the examination paper which caused all the problems for him.

But the college insisted he had not apologised and sent circulars to all churches under the Kothamangalm diocese, saying he had not apologised.

"I have not done anything intentionally," says Professor Joseph.

Stella met the bishop on July 2, explained what happened and apologised. She also met the college manager.

Professor Joseph's wife and daughter also met the college manager, but he did not relent.

Stella told, "We will go to court against the dismissal order. We cannot be punished twice for the same incident."

Professor Joseph's severed hand was re-attached by a team of surgeons at the Specialists Hospital in Kochi. He is on medication and undergoes physiotherapy every day.

Professor Joseph feels his hand is better now. The doctors have told him the feeling and sensation in the hand will return in six months.

Sometimes he gets a burning sensation in his hand. The doctors treating him have told him that this is a good sign, as it shows that sensation is returning to his palm.

When Professor Joseph was attacked, many organisations and political parties condemned the attack and supported him.

His dismissal order, on the other hand, has been received with a deafening silence.

Now the teacher has only the courts to give him justice.

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A Ganesh Nadar in Thodupuzha