Cartoon row: Kerala govt asks akademi to review award decision

Thiruvananthapuram: A cartoon titled ‘Viswasam Rakshathi‘ by K K Subhash of Chengalam, which has been selected by the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi this year, has stoked a major controversy in Kerala.

The cartoon appeared in a Malayalam magazine last year after Bishop Franco Mullakal was accused of rape by a nun.

The cartoon shows Mullakal as a rooster, holding a pink coloured lingerie on the crosier, while a group of nuns is shown running away.

Amidst State-wide discontent, the Kerala Left government yesterday asked the Akademi to review its decision regarding the award, which carries a cash prize of Rs 50,000, memento and certificate..

Cultural Affairs Minister A K Balan told the State Assembly that the government is of the opinion that the cartoon has hurt the sentiments of the Christian community as religious symbols were included and that the Akademi should review its decision.

He, however, defended that the cartoon was against Bishop Mullakal and not against any community. Balan said the government welcomed the Opposition party’s stand and suggestions in this issue. The secular fabric of India cannot be destroyed in the name of freedom of expression.

Meanwhile, Ramesh Chennithala condemned the akademi’s decision to honour a cartoon that showed a religious symbol in such a manner.

The Kerala Catholic Bishop Council flayed the LDF government over the issue. Christians were being targeted after reaching a conclusion that in the recently concluded elections, the minority community did not stand with the CPI(M).

Balan, however, denied the allegation. “Last year’s winner Gopikrishnan drew a cartoon criticising Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. We gave him the award,” Balan said. Meanwhile, BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai said in a statement that both the Left and the Congress lack sincerity in the matter.

The Church has urged the government to withdraw the award given to the “vulgar cartoon” and also sought an apology by the akademi officials.

Meanwhile, Kerala Cartoon Academy has expressed displeasure over the controversy, as the award was determined by a committee of eminent cartoonists.

NT Bureau