A political row has erupted in Kerala after a cartoon of rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal bagged the Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi award. Slamming the academy’s decision, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) has claimed that the cartoon, drawn by Subhash KK, insults Christian religious symbols. The ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, already facing severe criticism from a section of Hindus over its handling of Sabarimala temple issue after the Supreme court order lifted age restrictions on women from entering the sacred shrine, is trying to douse KCBC’s anger.
State Minister for Cultural Affairs and CPI(M) leader A K Balan on Thursday pointed out that the Kerala government did not want to hurt religious sentiments of people and has asked the Akademi to reconsider the decision. The cartoon that has earned eyeballs is a caricature of rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal who belonged to Jalandhar diocese. Mulakkal was removed as the diocese’s head following the allegations and his subsequent arrest in September last year.
“We question if the CPM’s review of the recent election that the Christian minority did not stand with the party, has influenced the selection of the award. Akademi office-bearers should recall the award and should apologise to the Christian community,” KCBC spokesman Father Varghese Vallikkatt was quoted by Indian Express as saying.
According to cartoonist Subash KK, the caricature was originally published in a Malayalam publication in 2018, but nobody protested at the time. Arguing that it was a satirical cartoon, he said it was not meant to hurt any religion.
Nemom Pushparaj, the chairman of the academy, said they would consider the decision. Akademi chairman Nemom Pushparaj also said they would review the decision. “Neither the Akademi nor the government has a role in the selections. The decision was taken by a three-member jury. A decision on whether the award should be revoked would be taken later after proper deliberations. We have a great level of tolerance and usually appreciate the cartoons,’’ he told the paper further.