July 06, 2010

Axed hand

What I understand about this news: people took offence. Because there are always people willing to take offence.

What I do not understand about the news:

* Why the college management "apologised".

* Why the Kerala government saw fit to issue "instruction" that the professor should be suspended.

* Why the college followed the government's instruction and suspended him.

* Why the police lodged a case against the professor.

Clearly "freedom of expression", especially its value in an educational institution, is a foreign phrase to all these people.

What I hope I will read in the news soon: that the sick creeps who cut off the professor's hand (with an axe!) are punished severely.

Because the message has to go out: feel offended if you like, who can stop that? But if your felt offence causes you to attack others, you will be swiftly punished. Regardless of your religion or particular offence.

What I instead worry will happen in this case: Nothing at all, for fear of treading on various toes. That others who feel offended by other things will thus know they can also lash out without fear of punishment.

What encourages me in this news: This line, if it is really true -- "The attack has caused widespread shock and outrage across Kerala."


Jo said...


The issue has to be condemned, as we cannot excuse any form of terrorism or extremism, regardless of from which community it comes from - the majority or minority. But there are a couple of issues attached to this 'axing' event.

The passage that Prof Joseph included in the question paper was from an article written by film maker/politician P T Kunjumuhammed. Kunjumuhammed was writing about the script he wrote for his award winning movie "Garshom". He wrote that the scene which the protagonist of his film talks to God was inspired by a lunatic in his hometown. So the protagonist would call the God and the God respons "what is it, you son of a dog"? (I am unsure that "Son of a dog" really interprets it's Malayalam usage "Naayinte mone" though).

Prof. Joseph took the passage and instead of leaving the lunatic nameless, added a name (which he did not have to do) and the name he chose was Muhammed (which also he did not have to do). Prof Joseph, a practicing Christian doing this was unnecessary for the educational program and hence the controversy.

The college management and Church apologized for having to hurt the Muslim sentiments and they expelled Joseph. I think that was a rightful thing to do.

And the axing event has already sparked widespread debates about increasing violence from some of the radical Islamist groups.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Fair enough Jo, and thank you for the explanation which I didn't know in full. From what you say, it looks like the prof set out to annoy people, and that he certainly succeeded in doing.

Freedoms come with responsibilities and consequences, and so you're right, if this is how the church and college perceived the prof had operated, they were correct in choosing to punish him (i.e. by suspending him).

To that extent, I'm now clearer on what happened and, like I said, thank you for the explanation.

What remains unacceptable is the reaction of the guys who cut off his hand.

Chandru K said...

Jo seems to be suggesting that the Prof brought this attack on himself. And has focused on the 'naming' controversy. Even if the Prof was non-circumspect in using that name, it certainly can't in any way be some kind of 'background' explanation. And very sketchy to approve of the college expelling the professor!

Jo said...

@ChandruK - I am not suggesting that "he brought it himself" or "he deserved it" or anything like that. That would be like saying MFH brought the radical Hindu ire on himself. Please do not plaster imaginative context to my words. I wrote this in hope of helping Dilip to know some facts which are not highlighted in the media (as he quoted some points which he do not understand in the beginning of this post).

And I made a mistake in the previous comment. The prof was not expelled, he was suspended to clear the air. What is sketchy about that?

Jai_C said...

Thanks Jo for the informative comment. Naayinte Mone is very derogatory in Mallu and routinely used as an open challenge to a fight. In naming the person thusly, the prof was pushing some limits and the uni would be within its rights IMO to suspend him for enquiry.

I most certainly hope these axe gang are punished.

The rest of this comment contains:
- cowardice
- political incorrectness

I have at least occasionally felt that heroically provocative expressions of free speech are at their most noble and defensible when any and all risk (however contrary to the concept of FoS) is borne by those and only those carrying out that expression.

When they raise considerable risk to me, and people I care for, and property I own I sometimes wish some consent of mine was sought (however condemnable the act of endangering me or mine in terms of FoS).

I seek understanding for any act of distancing from the provocation by me, or people who feel like me. I hope to be forgiven for NOT always standing up for FoS.

I wish those getting provoked would not resort to violence but failing that I wish the provocation had not taken place. Its cold comfort to me to lose life or limb even if I know the attackers are being punished.

...and who knows? Somebody will come up with a brilliant idea to trade in the punishment for their co-operation in nabbing other gang members or 'reforming' their neighborhood. Thanks but no thanks.

Damage control as attempted by the govt and the uni. do not advance FoS but *do* align with the goal of keeping me safe(r). I regretfully concur with and support these decisions.


Chandru K said...

Okay Jo,thanks for the clarification. Another outrageous feature of this incident, is that the media has tried to conceal the religious affiliation of the attackers. It is merely referred to as 'a certain community'. If the culprits were Hindus, particularly if they were associated with any Hindu organisation, there would be screaming from the rooftops about right wing Hindu communalism, apart from the obligatory comparisons to the Taliban and the Nazis. And no, the M.F Hussein controversy is not equivalent. Again, the media is blowing it up to make it so.

Vivek Rao said...

Shit happens in Indian man! Sad...

Anonymous said...

"the media has tried to conceal the religious affiliation of the attackers."

it takes a specially perverse mind to say this when the media report linked to in the blog *itself* uses the word 'muslim' several times.

for e.g., it has this sentence:- "Certain Muslim organisations, assuming that ‘Muhammad' in the passage was Prophet Muhammad, took offence and staged protest rallies and clamoured for action against the professor."

but chandru k (or will he say it is not him) doesnt/cant/wont read that in his anxiety to portray the media and everyone else as anti-hindu.

yes, im the same anonymous. this chandru guy and his avatars are a riot.

Chandru K said...

Previous anon: for the record, I really did not make the comment about the media that you reacted to. Isn't it obvious from the impostor's manner that it's a fake? As you point out, the report itself mentions the Muslims. Why would I be so stupid as to pretend it doesnt?

It is true that a lot of media reports try to underplay the Muslim angle in a lot of sick crimes the community commits - but not in this case, as reported.

Please try to draw a distinction between the fake Chandrus and me. It should be obvious from what I write.

Anonymous said...

you didnt fail me, chandru! sure enough, you popped up saying you didnt write the comment! youre presence and comments here is the funniest thing ive seen on the web in a long time.

even if i have no idea who i am talking to, which actully makes it funnier!

Chandru K said...

"you didnt fail me, chandru! sure enough, you popped up saying you didnt write the comment!"

I have no control over someone using my name. Anyone, including myself, could easily use the names of other posters in this forum. Mercifully, that little problem doesn't exist.

For the record, that was me responding to Jo, and then acknowledging his clarification. While noting that the Indian media in general tries to conceal or downplays, the identity of assailants if they are Moslem. And plays them up when they are Hindu, with cliched concerns about a Hindu Taliban, if not Nazis.

Anonymous said...

in one comment, "tried to conceal".

in another, "try to underplay".

in a third, "tries to conceal or downplays".

is this progress/evolution? or is this different chandrus? or i dont know what!

i dont know which chandru is answering what. but as i said before, this post links to a news report that makes it very clear that it was muslims who did this attack, and by explicitly, repeatedly, using the word "muslim".

yet still one or all of the chandrus says "the media has tried to conceal the religious affiliation of the attackers."

it takes a specially perverse mind. its what we have here.

Anonymous said...

Let's have the following rule: ignore anything written by anyone using the handle Chandru K. Starting ... NOW!

Regarding the attack on the professor - very poor show. Shashi Tharoor needs to take this up himself. The perpetrators should definitely be punished. Regarding the suspension of the Prof -- perhaps to appease the insulted community? Now I do know one person called Jesus -- (from Spain, not Nazareth) but imagine if many, many Christians were called Jesus - I can see such a confusion developing elsewhere also. Could it lead to a knifing? Perhaps. Certain subjects should not be treated lightly. Do not forget "The Last Temptation of Christ". I am not condoning the knifing, it is wrong, I am saying if you trouble trouble then trouble troubles you. Ask Salman. Or the Dutch.

Chandru K said...

Another lacunae in this article, is any reference by D'Souza to past communal violence. Where is the mention of Nov 1984, Jan 1993 and March 2002? Why would D'Souza see this incident in isolation, but not other terrorist attacks against India, most recently in Pune. Because the victim in this case is obviously Christian? Very shallow, if so.

Bling Babe said...

I don't know why every time someone in India says something this stupid debate happens in the media and some lunatic blogs all over again.

It should be required that people wanting to make any comment on free speech should do so only after reading TM Scanlon's "What We Owe Each Other" : http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674004238

Till then, go ahead cut limbs. But don't make trivial arguments please.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Bling Babe: If there was ever someone who didn't live in the real world it is "T. M. Scanlon, Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity at Harvard University". You seem to live elsewhere as well, advocating limb-cutting. Why so cut up about this "trivial" discussion? Take the trouble, Bling Babe, to explain instead of throwing a random reference, a runaway remark and a ruthless recommendation. This simply does not cut the mustard.

Bling Babe said...

Anonymous person who commented on Dr Scanlon: It's apparent you have not read the book.

In it he argues the nature and scope of what is called free speech. Please read it. We can have all our discussions after that.

And Cambridge, MA exists in reality in my Universe. I am not sure why you think it does not exist in the real world.

Anonymous said...

Bling Babe: Thanks for your follow up on Dr. Scanlon and his book. I will keep your recommendation in mind. Wisdom comes not from only reading books or because of it. You may need to get some additional experience under your belt.

It is not that Cambridge MA does not exist in the real world. It is that most of the real world exists outside of Cambridge, MA and the personal world of Dr. Scanlon.

Bling Babe said...

Anonymous Person: Two points,

1. To say one *has* to live through life to understand a particular aspect of it is to deny any and every possibility of progress in thought that mankind has and will achieve.

2. To exclude one real place by saying it is but one out of all Universe is to exclude all places. Since any place is some place.

Anonymous said...

Bling Babe:

1. I did not say exactly that. However, I did say that, to FEEL something, really, you have to live through, or in, something similar. Analytical thought alone, bereft of feeling, is like using the Pythagoras Theorem to explore why the attack ("axed hand") took place.

2. Your point is well taken. However, the origin of your coordinate system is centered at Cambridge MA and, with a sweeping statement, precluded any discussion until the discussants read and orient themselves in your coordinates. I simply said that this is not the most relevant coordinate system to use, when the subject at hand is centered roughly 10,000 miles and several cultural landscapes away.

Gurpreet said...

"Because the victim in this case is obviously Christian?"

What a vile and twisted remark to make.

Pvsly, Chandru has attacked dSouza for mentioning 2002/1984 etc. Now he attackes him for NOT mentioning them. I am amazed that none of the regular commenters here pulled up Chandru for this. (mr "same anonymous", not even you??)

Some people's thinking is so pervertted that they cannot imagine it other people are not the same. This is why Chandru wants to attach the same motiveations to dSouza as he would have himself.

Bhagwad Jal Park said...

Many people feel that that the axe gang got far less outrage than the pub incident by Muthalik. Indeed, one commentor on my blog asked me this same question.

My reasons are two fold:

1. First, Muthalik didn't just attack specific people. He launched a war against every woman in India who wishes to live as she wants - and that includes going to pubs and drinking. His moralizing is what pissed people off. He stood up and openly "warned" people. Naturally this made it personal to many of us.

2. Second, Muthalik was the leader of a political party who obviously was using the pub incident to get votes. These people are far more dangerous than isolated people like the axe gang. If people like Muthalik come to power, the consequences will be very much more severe. It's to prevent such people from getting political acceptance and mileage that there was so much outrage.

Anonymous said...

gurpreet, the only thing to do with something chandru says - of cours before he pops up to say he didnt say it - is to ridicule him. i think "pulling him up" only gets him (or his avatars) more gungho abt making "twisted" comments.

right chandru?? or chandru??

(the "same anonymous")

Jai_C said...

Hi Bhagwad JP,

Just skimmed ur post and must say you are trying something commendable there, esp the echo chamber effect*. But sandeepweb is too far gone -IMO. Do try the INI sites or similar.

re. your specific comment:
- agree with #2 but disagree with #1. As with the pub attack, the attack on the prof is equally a war launched on any and all expression that the fundamentalists disapprove of.

I think the difference is in the fact that not much action has been taken yet with Muthalik and he continues to mouth off.


Chandru K said...

"1. First, Muthalik didn't just attack specific people. He launched a war against every woman in India who wishes to live as she wants - and that includes going to pubs and drinking."

We can assume from the above, that those who cut off hands of people for indirect references to the Islamic prophet, are great liberals when it comes to single women going to bars. Come off it.

Chandru K said...

"gurpreet, the only thing to do with something chandru says - of cours before he pops up to say he didnt say it - is to ridicule him."

Or respond to the idea in the message, as I have recommended many times. As for imitating someone, anyone can do that with any poster here. I'm not into that game.

Chandru K said...

"Pvsly, Chandru has attacked dSouza for mentioning 2002/1984 etc. Now he attackes him for NOT mentioning them"

Mentioning those events IS quite irrelevant and silly. But if you're going to do it, mention them regardless of whether the victim is Hindu, Christian, Atheist or Agnostic.

Bhagwad Jal Park said...

Thanks Jai! What are INI sites?

You're right about Muthalik. The outrage is about his blatant public statements and he seems to think that no one should touch him.

If a Muslim political leader had openly told the TV and media on shows etc that ANY person in India who depicts Mohammed will have their hands cut off, he would have been skinned alive by the media and the press.

There's no "conspiracy" here to keep Islamic violence out of the papers. Violence is violence irrespective of who perpetrates it.

Chandru K said...

Neither of me made the previous two statements. Who is this joker? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Look you can tell from the the writing who the real Chandru K is. It should be obvious that it is me.

Anonymous said...

"Or respond to the idea in the message"

sure chandru. you tell me how I (or anyone!!) is supposed to respond to "the idea" in comments like "howling youth in kashmir", when speaking about deaths by crpf firing there. in fact, even better is you tell me what is the "idea" in that phrase to begin with.

Anonymous said...

oh im sorry, you'r now going to say you didnt make that "howling" remark, no?

(same anonymous)

Anonymous said...

Oh, I did make it, and I'll stand by it. The reason for calling them 'howling', is that there is nothing *progressive* about their stone throwing and sloganeering. They are not calls for more democracy, pluralism, secularism and openness. Quite the contrary! On the other hand, if these youth were indulging in stone throwing because they were up against a totalitarian(North Korea), fascist(Adolf Hitler), repressive monarchy( like Saudi) or brutal tyrant( like Idi Amin), the stone throwing would still not be something to glorify. But it could be understood and sympathised with.

The stone throwing again is an expression of the ethno-chauvinist cum religious hatred that has defined the Kashmir movement from day one.

Chandru K said...

The above comment was not by me, as you can tell from the style. Howling brings to mind a small child crying loudly, or a wolf. Neither applies to the community mentioned. Sati, dowry-deaths and stoning should be all things of the past.

As for imitating someone, anyone can do that with any poster here. I'm not into that game.

Jai_C said...

Bhagwad JP,

acorn.nationalinterest.in and retributions.nationalinterest.in

are 2 of the sites I commonly visit at http://www.takshashila.org.in/
Occasionally try some posts at pragmatic also.

The sites shifted a bit in tone (less righty IMO) after somebody called offstumped left.


blog said...

Thank you Jai.

I've already found some nice blogs and posts!

Jai_C said...


I've not been following this actively but if this IE report is true, your fears *are* justified



- Congress chief Oommen Chandy is equivocating (at best) on the support of PFI whose activists attacked the professor.

- IUML an important and longstanding Cong. partner had clearly distanced themselves from PFI, declaring they did NOT want the votes of PFI supporters. ...... Wow!

- Mr.Chandy said he did not have the audacity to refuse PFI votes.
He has endorsed the PFI line that police are targeting the whole M community.

- PFI is reportedly a successor to NDF and SIMI. Bombs and weapons have been recovered from PFI offices.

One needs to correct for IE slant but they dont manufacture or put words in people's mouths. I couldnt find the Hindu reports on this party meeting.


Jai C said...

Hi Dilip,

just to update on this, learnt that prof.TJ Joseph has been sacked from his job.

PS: The news site I saw this at was already buzzing with comments like "where is Teesta now?" etc. for these folks, here was Teesta: