Indian Catholic News

Church protests Indian cartoon award

Fine arts academy agrees to review decision because of a complaint that it demeans the Christian cross.

The Indian Catholic Church has complained about an award given for a cartoon caricature of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar (pictured above) who has been accused of rape. (Photo supplied)

A protest from the Catholic Church has resulted in an announced review of an award given to a cartoonist who depicted a rape-accused bishop as a rooster holding a crosier with an image of women's underwear replacing the cross.

The state's fine arts academy, Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, announced its annual awards on June 10. It gave one of them to K.K. Subhash for his cartoon entitled "Faith saves" caricaturing Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar.

Bishop Mulakkal is still awaiting trial in a Kerala court accused of raping a Catholic nun in that state. The bishop, based in northern Punjab state, is currently on bail.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council in a June 11 statement condemned the decision of the academy. The statement said it was a deliberate attempt of the communist-led state government to insult the Church and humiliate Christian religious symbols.

The bishops would not have objected if the award was bestowed by a private entity, council spokesperson and deputy secretary general Father Varghese Vallikkatt told June 12.

"Since it is a government award from a recognized cultural organization, we cannot but protest it," he said.

The Church was only concerned about the "depiction" of the cross which is holy to every Catholic. "It’s a criminal offense to hurt the religious sentiments of people under Indian laws," he added.

The priest said when a government academy awards such works it constituted "official recognition and encouragement" for people to insult Christian and other religious sentiments. "That cannot be allowed," he stressed.

Academy chairman Nemom Pushparaj told that the cartoon was selected for the award by a three-member independent jury and that was not influenced by the government or officials of the academy.

"We generally do not interfere in the selection process," he told "In this case, we never thought it could hurt the religious sentiments of Christians. Since it has been brought to our notice, we have decided to review it.”

The government has also asked the academy to "relook" at the matter. "It is not final and it can be reviewed," Pushparaj noted.

Academy secretary Ponniam Chandran told that problems arise when the work in question is not viewed as a cartoon.

"It's something to be enjoyed with humor," he said. "A cartoon generally explains a social tragedy or issue in a satirical way with a message to correct it."

The academy was established in 1962 to conserve and promote the visual arts. It is an autonomous cultural organization that functions under the auspices of the state government.

Source: UCAN

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