KOCHI: The Kerala Lalithakala’s Akademi’s award for a cartoon on Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is the accused in the nun rape case, which showed him holding a crosier with an innerwear on its end, has triggered a controversy, forcing the Akademi to reconsider its decision.
The Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC), an association of bishops of three rites of the Catholic Church viz., the Latin, the Syro-Malabar and the Syro Malankara, earlier demanded immediate withdrawal of the selection and urged the government to intervene in the matter. The award-winning cartoon by KK Subhash titled ‘Vishwasam Rakshathi’ appeared in ‘Hasya Kairali’ magazine in October last year. It depicted Bishop Mulakkal as a rooster holding a crosier with an innerwear on its end. The rooster is shown standing on a police cap with nuns weeping by the side.
Chairman of Lalithakala Akademi Nemom Pushparaj said since there was no intention of hurting any religious sentiments, the jury will be asked to reconsider the decision. “We need to re-examine the cartoon regarding its depiction and then only a final decision will be taken.”
KCBC deputy secretary general Fr Varghese Vallikkat condemned the decision of the Akademi to award the cartoon. He said the Akademi insulted priesthood and religious sentiments of Christianity by portraying it in a bad light.
Meanwhile, Minister for Culture A K Balan told mediapersons in New Delhi that hurting religious sentiments was not the policy of the state government and the Akademi has been asked to review their decision.
“The government is not interfering in the freedom of expression of the artist. However, it seems like some parts depict religious symbols of Christianity in an insulting way,” said Balan. He also added the decision of selecting the award has got nothing to do with the election verdict. Noted Cartoonists P Sukumar, PV Krishnan and Madhu Omalloor comprised the jury that decided the award. The crosier is a symbol of episcopal authority according to the Church. The Minister said the portrayal of a crosier in a bad light cannot be ignored and therefore the review committee will look into their decision.
However, Kerala Cartoon Academy secretary Thomas Antony said there was no need for any controversies. “Eminent cartoonists constitute the panel which decides on the award. It is very saddening to see the interference in the freedom of expression of an artist’s work. Kerala has a history of criticising anyone through the arts of Kunjan Nambiar,” said Thomas.