Indian Catholic News

Bishops' protest fails to change cartoon award

Kerala fine arts academy stands by bishop caricature despite claims it insults Christian symbols

Kerala Lalithakala Akademi has refused to back down in a row over a cartoon award. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

A fine arts academy in India’s Kerala state has ignored Catholic protests and refused to withdraw an award given to a cartoon allegedly denigrating Christian symbols.

State-run Kerala Lalithakala Akademi honored K.K. Subhash for a cartoon that depicted rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar as a rooster. He is shown holding a crosier with an image of women's underwear replacing the cross.

Church officials have been protesting the cartoon since the award was announced in early June, saying it insults religious symbols.

“The academy sticks to its stand on the cartoon award,” chairman Nemom Pushparaj told media on June 17. The academy’s executive council has unanimously decided not to alter the decision of the independent jury, he said.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council demanded the withdrawal of the award on grounds that the state officially honoring such work would encourage the insulting of Christian symbols.

But the academy refused. “If the cartoon has insulted anyone’s religious sentiments, that aspect would be looked into after taking legal consultation, if required,” Pushparaj said.

The bishops’ council in a June 11 statement condemned the award. It lodged a complaint with the state government and urged the academy to withdraw the award. It also sought an apology from the academy.

The caricatured Bishop Mulakkal awaits trial in a Kerala court after he was accused of raping a nun in the southern state. He is based in the northern state of Punjab.

The council’s deputy secretary-general, Father Varghese Vallikkatt, told on June 18 that the Church’s “demand stands and there is no change in it.” He confirmed that the Church has officially registered its complaint with the government.

Father Vallikkatt said a democratically elected government in a secular country has a responsibility to respect the sentiments of people of all religions. “Let us hope good sense will prevail,” he said.

Cartoonist Subhash told that his work was “not aimed at targeting any religion or its symbol as was being made out.”

The cartoon was published almost a year ago in a local magazine when the rape case involving the bishop was a major event of that period, he said. “A cartoon should be viewed as a cartoon and should not be seen in any other way,” he said.

Subhash said he was sorry to hear that the cartoon has hurt the religious sentiments of Christians. “I had absolutely no intention to hurt anyone,” he said.

Academy secretary Ponniam Chandran said the academy had reviewed its decision following government instructions but decided not to change it.

“If there is any further demand from the government, we will have a look into it again,” he told, indicating that the decision could change with government pressure.


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