Thursday, September 09, 2010

'Grave injustice' say students

By Shevlin Sebastian

The students of Newman College, Thodupuzha, are deeply upset over the decision by the management to dismiss Prof T.J. Joseph from service. “It is a grave injustice,” says Ajishmon P. Sasi, a B.Com student, who used to study Malayalam under Joseph.

Ajishmon had sat for the fateful Malayalam examination, on March 23, in which Joseph had named a lunatic as Muhammad. “I did not feel he had done anything wrong,” he says. “I am certain he did not add the name deliberately.”

Ajishmon says that Joseph is a fine teacher. “He has a wide knowledge of literature,” he says. “Frequently, he went far beyond the syllabus so that we could learn new things. I enjoyed his expertise on Malayalam films.” In his spare time, Joseph has written a couple of television scripts.

Abin Jose, another student of Joseph, is reeling from the shock dismissal. He says that the students had boycotted classes on Monday in protest.

“It is an injustice,” says Abin. “The management showed a lack of sympathy by dismissing him when the professor has not completely recovered [from the attack by Muslim fundamentalists in July. They had cut off his right palm]. He is the sole bread-winner of his family.”

What Abin liked about Joseph was his sense of humour. He remembers a joke that the teacher had told them before Joseph’s life went horribly wrong. When an affluent man wanted to set up an A class cinema hall at Mundakkayam, the B class theatre owners launched a protest. They went to court and obtained several injunctions. But a C class theatre owner did not react. Eventually the A class hall came up.

On the day of the inauguration, the A class theatre showed the film, ‘Jayikkaanaay Janichavan’ (Born to Win). The B class cinema hall showed ‘Tholkan Enikke Manassilla’ (I have no desire to lose), while the C class theatre showed, ‘Ollathu Mathi’ (What we have is enough). Incidentally, these are the titles of actual Malayalam films.

However, when asked why the students did not launch a public protest when Joseph was attacked, they remained quiet. Unlike the teachers, the students did not make a financial contribution to help Joseph meet his hospital expenses. “We did not know he had any financial difficulties,” said Abin. “But, looking back, I feel bad that we students did not do enough for our teacher.”

Says Akhilesh K.P.: “There are no unions in our college and hence we lacked proper leadership.” Adds commerce professor Joy Mathew: “The power of the students to stage protests has become weaker over the years. There are restrictions placed by most college managements to set up unions. But it is only through unions that students can learn the principles of democracy.”

Meanwhile, the parishioners of the Catholic churches of Kaliyar and Vannappuram, near Thodupuzha, reacted negatively. On Sunday night, at 11 p.m., they staged a protest outside the Bishop’s house at Kothamangalam, 25 kms away. This is because the Newman College is run by the Kothamangalam diocese. Fr. Thomas Malekudy, Newman College manager, also lives there.

Says Mathew: “The management has made a disastrous decision. Public opinion is against them. They must show justice and compassion to Joseph by withdrawing the dismissal letter.”

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)

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