A cartoon that bagged the Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi award on Tuesday has stirred up a political row in the state. The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) on Wednesday launched a protest against the Akademi’s decision. Protesters claim the cartoon insults Christian religious symbols.
Hours after the protest, the CPM-led Left Democratic Front (LDF) government — which is facing backlash from sections of Hindus over its decision to allow young women to enter the Sabarimala temple in the wake of a Supreme Court order —sought to quell the KCBC’s anger.
Senior CPM leader and Minister for Cultural Affairs A K Balan said the government did not want to hurt religious sentiments and that it has asked the Akademi to review its decision.
The cartoon in question is a caricature of rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal who belonged to Jalandhar diocese. Following the allegations of raping a nun and his arrest in September 2018, Mulakkal was removed as head of the diocese.
KCBC spokesman Father Varghese Vallikkatt said the Akademi’s decision was highly deplorable. “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,” he said.
Cartoonist K K Subash said the caricature had originally appeared in a Malayalam publication last year. “Nobody protested against the cartoon then. Everyone should realise that it is a satirical cartoon. I don’t want to get involved in the decision of the Akademi. The cartoon was not meant to hurt any religion,’’ he said.
Akademi chairman Nemom Pushparaj 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 said.
Minister Balan said prima facie, the government is of the view that the cartoon insulted religious symbols and asked the Akademi to review its decision. “The government has not interfered in the award. The Akademi should review the decision and see whether the jury has gone wrong,’’ he said.