Kochi: Two persons including an activist of a fundamentalist Muslim outfit were arrested on Monday in connection with the gruesome attack on a college lecturer whose right hand was chopped off for allegedly preparing a question paper with derogatory references to Prophet Mohammed.
Jaffar of Kothamangalam and Ashraff of Mekalady were taken into custody, police said. Ashraff is reportedly an activist of the Popular Front, a fundamentalist Muslim outfit.
T J Joseph (52), a Malayalam lecturer at Christian-run Newman college, was attacked at Muvattupuzha on Sunday while returning from a church along with his family, including his sister and mother after attending the Sunday mass.
His vehicle was stopped by a gang of seven persons armed with axe and sticks. They burst an explosive to scare people in the vicinity before chopping off Joseph's hand.
Dr.R.Jaykumar, who led a five-member team at the Specialist hospital, took over 16 hours to suture back Joseph's hand. It would take more than a week to know if the surgery was successful, Jaykumar said.
"Joseph's condition is now stable. He will remain in the ICU for at least a week," the doctor said, adding, "12 bottles of blood have been given to him. When he was brought to the hospital, he was almost dead. There were some fractures and injuries all over the body. He had lost a lot of blood".
Jaykumar said multiple surgeries were carried out for hand replantation and free tissue transfers.
Joseph's hand, tossed by the attackers in a residential complex, was picked up by his sister, Mary Stella, a nun, who carried it in a polythene bag to the hospital.
The lecturer was on bail since his arrest in April last for preparing the controversial question paper for B.Com II year internal exams, which triggered protests from some Muslim outfits, who claimed a reference to Prophet Mohammed in it hurt their religious sentiments.
In the Kerala assembly, Home Minister Kodiyari Balakrishnan said the government would not allow such "Taliban-type" attacks and asked all political parties to unite and isolate forces responsible for the "barbaric" attack.
The minister said a seven-member gang attacked T J Joseph, a Malayalam lecturer at Newman College in Thodupuzha and chopped off his right palm.
Balakrishnan said police were questioning the suspects and stringent action would be taken against the culprits.
He said the government would verify if there were lapses on the part of police in providing protection to Joseph, who was suspended from the college after the question paper row.