The Kerala Lalitha Kala Akademi has rejected the state's request to review their decision of awarding KK Subhash's caricature of Bishop Franco Mulakkal of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, who has been accused of rape. The state's suggestion had come after protests by the Christian community.
The cartoon, titled 'Vishwasam Rakshathi' (protection of faith), depicts the Bishop as a rooster, atop a police cap, holding a staff with female underwear stretched around it, and a group of nuns frantically running away. The cartoon is in reference to the accusation of the Bishop raping a nun, and appeared last year in a Malayalam magazine.
Last week, the Akademi's announcement regarding the cartoon award met with protests from the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council, saying the cartoon had insulting religious symbols. Several Christian organisations protested, marching to the Akademi headquarters on Monday, demanding the withdrawal of the award for the cartoon.
In response, the Kerala state government asked the Akademi to review their decision, an advice the Akademi has rejected, alluding to jury's decision as final and unchanging. Nemom Pushaparaj, chairman of the Akademi, which is an autonomous government organisation, told PTI:
"We have unanimously decided not to intervene into the decision of the expert jury which has selected the cartoon for the award. Their decision is final and we will not make any change in it."
He recalled the last time when the award was given to a cartoon criticising the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, and how the Akademi didn't attempt to change that decision either. He added that the cartoon is simply social commentary, not a vehicle to hurt any religious sentiments. "What has been depicted in the cartoon was the symbol of power and not any Christian symbol. When the staff is carried by a person, whom we can describe even as an anti-social, it is just a symbol of power¦ there is no need to attach any holiness to it."
Mulakkal, the former Bishop of Jalandhar, was removed from the diocese and arrested by the Kerala police last year, following public outrage, after a nun reported that he had repeatedly raped her in a convent in the Kottayam district between 2014 and 2016.