Cartoon on Kerala priest Franco Mulakkal wins award, triggers controversy
The state-run Kerala Lalithakala Akademi on Wednesday decided to withdraw an award given to a cartoon after the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC) expressed serious reservations, saying it depicted religious symbols in poor light and insulted priests.
In the annual cartoon contest, the first prize was won by K K Subash who works with a vernacular magazine. His cartoon criticised former bishop of Jalandhar Franco Mulakkal, who is accused of raping a nun. The KCBC said the cartoon was “very offensive” and portrayed priesthood in bad light.
In a statement, KCBC said the cartoon was abominable and asked the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front government whether it was taking ‘revenge’ on the community after it lost all but one seat in the recently held Lok Sabha elections.
KCBC spokesman Verghese Vallikat said the decision to honour such a cartoon was “unfortunate and highly objectionable.” He asked Akademi officials to tender an unconditional apology and withdraw the award immediately.
Soon after the issue kicked off a controversy, state culture minister A K Balan said the government did not agree with the content of the cartoon. “The state government has no role in the award and it was given by an independent jury. After protests we examined it and came to a conclusion that it was not right to hurt religious sentiments of a community,” he said.
Akademi chairman Nemom Pushparaj said the Akademi will take suitable action to rectify it. He said the award was selected by an eminent jury headed by famous cartoonist Sukumar. “It was decided by an independent jury. Since serious charges were raised against the cartoon we will have a relook,” he said.
Kerala Cartoon Academy, a body of professional cartoonists, said the decision to withdraw the prize awarded to the cartoon was an attack on creative freedom. Cartoonist K K Subash was not available for comments. Sukumar or members of the jury could not be reached.
The award includes a plaque and Rs 10,000.