Savad Meerankutty, the main accused in the notorious 2010 hand-chopping case of Professor T J Joseph in Thodupuzha, Kerala, was apprehended by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday (10 January) after evading arrest for 13 years.
He was arrested from Beram in Kannur's Mattannur municipality by the NIA.
Savad, a native of Noolely in Ernakulam's Asamannoor Grama Panchayat, was wanted for chopping the right hand of T J Joseph, a Malayalam teacher at Newman College in Thodupuzha over an alleged blasphemous question paper he set for his BCom students.
A special NIA court had convicted 19 persons in the case.
Savad, suspected of escaping to Bengaluru after the crime, was the only accused to remain absconding, though NIA had declared a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on him.
He led a concealed life in Kerala throughout his 13-year run as a fugitive, according to Kerala Police's Crime Branch.
Savad had seemingly lived a double life, avoiding any legal conflicts which aided his evasion.
The police suspect the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), seen as the political wing of the outlawed Popular Front of India (PFI), played a role in harboring Savad and facilitating his life in hiding, including arranging his marriage.
His father-in-law, a devout SDPI member, admitted meeting Savad at Ullal Darga near Mangaluru.
Savad, who introduced himself as Shajahan to his father-in-law, lived in various locations under SDPI influence, moving through Valapattanam, Iritty, and eventually settling in Beram.
His life under the radar included a stint during the COVID-19 pandemic in Vilakodu, residing in a house owned by an SDPI activist, according to the Police, Manorama Online reported.
Despite using his original name on his children's birth certificates, his dual life remained undetected until recently.
The NIA's arrest has opened inquiries into the deeper involvement of SDPI in his years of hiding, with police investigating those who may have assisted Savad.
Kuldeep is Senior Editor (Newsroom) at Swarajya. He tweets at @kaydnegi.
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