Family of Indian professor 'forgives' attackers

Prof Joseph in hospital The attack has shocked people in Kerala

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The family of a professor in southern India whose hand was cut off by suspected Islamic extremists have told the BBC they forgive his attackers.

Professor TJ Joseph was attacked by eight people on Sunday as he was returning home from church with his mother and his sister, who is a nun.

Police believe that Prof Joseph was attacked because he was accused of insulting Islam in an exam paper.

He is recovering in hospital in the town of Muvattupuzha in Kerala state.

'More injuries'

Two activists of the predominantly Muslim Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested on Monday in connection with the attack.

At the time of the assault, Prof Joseph had been suspended from his position in the Roman Catholic-run Newman college in the town of Thodupuzha and was facing possible criminal charges for blasphemy.

That was because in March he was alleged to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad in an exam paper, an accusation strongly denied by his family.

The attack has been condemned by the government of Kerala and various Muslim organisations, who point out that such incidents are extremely rare in the state.

"My father is still in intensive care but the family forgives his attackers," Prof Joseph's daughter, Amy, told the BBC.

"He has lost his right arm below the elbow and requires more surgery.

"We think that this attack has happened because of a misunderstanding in the exam paper which did not contain any derogatory reference to the Prophet Muhammad."

Prof Joseph's sister, Mary Stella - who is a Roman Catholic nun - was with him when the assailants launched their attack with an axe, knives and a petrol bomb.

"They also attacked our 83-year-old mother before fleeing," she told the BBC. Both women suffered minor injuries.

She said that her brother had been threatened three times following the question paper row.

There were angry protests in Thodupuzha by various Muslim organisations in March when the question paper outcry first broke and several people were injured in clashes with police.

Prof Joseph was arrested and granted bail in April.

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