Thiruvananthapuram: Following protests from the Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (KCBC), the state-run Kerala Lalithakala Akademy on Wednesday decided to re-examine its award winning cartoon, which allegedly depicts in an indecent manner Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who has been convicted of rape.
The controversy erupted following the ruling Left Democratic Front's (LDF) miserable performance in the recent Lok Sabha elections where it won just one seat, after which the KCBC said that the LDF government is targeting the Catholic community. The LDF had won eight seats in the 2014 general elections.
Mulakkal was arrested on September 21, 2018, on rape charges after the four aggrieved nuns joined a public protest in Kochi, forcing the police to take action against the bishop. Mulakkal secured bail on October 16, 2018, and is no longer head of the Jalandhar diocese, which he headed till his arrest.
The Akademy had awarded the first prize to the cartoon in question drawn by K.K. Subhas who is working for a vernacular magazine. It depicts Mulakkal as a fowl, while a ladies undergarment is seen at the end of the bishop's staff.
With the KCBC expressing deep anguish over the issue, State Culture Minister A.K. Balan examined the cartoon and confirmed that it hurts religious sentiments and that he does not agree with it.
"The state government has no role in it as the award winners were selected by a group of experts. After protests surfaced, we examined it and we found it was not right to hurt religious sentiments," said Balan.
Akademy Chairman Nemom Pushparaj said that they will have re-examine the matter soon.
Meanwhile, A.K Balan said that the government was not questioning the talent and ability of the award winning artist. “However, the government does not approve hurting religious sentiments. This should not be seen as a move against freedom of expression. The previous award was given to a cartoon that criticized Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The CM himself presented the award to the cartoonist,” said Balan.
However, Kerala Cartoon Academy officials came out against the move to re-examine the matter. Expressing regret over the controversy, the academy said the public should show manners and accept the award. In a press release, Kerala Cartoon Academy secretary Thomas Antony said that cartoon is a satirical art form and restrictions will make it meaningless.
(With inputs from IANS)