Thrissur: A state-run akademi on Monday rejected the Left government's advice to review its decision to honour a cartoon, depicting Bishop Franco Mullakal as a rooster and alluding to the rape charge against him, saying the jury's decision was final and Akademi would stand by it.
The decision was taken unanimously at the executive committee and the general council of the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi, which met at its headquarters here.
An autonomous cultural organisation of the government,the Akademi also turned down the criticism that the cartoon, titled 'Viswasam Rakshathi' (protection of faith) drawn by KK Subhash of Chengalam, had hurt the sentiments of the Christian community.
"We have unanimously decided not to intervene into the decision of the expert jury which had selected the cartoon for the award. Their decision is final and we will not make any change in it," said Akademi chairman Nemom Pushaparaj, adding, "Last time, the award was given to a cartoon criticising Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. We had never attempted to change that decision also."
The cartoon 'Viswasam Rakshathi' had appeared in a Malayalam magazine last year after Mullakal was accused of rape by a nun. Showing Mullakal as a rooster, it also has a pink-coloured lingerie in the crosier (staff), carried by a bishop as a symbol of the pastoral office, while a group of nuns is shown fleeing.
Pushparaj, however, made it clear that no religious symbol was shown in a poor light in the award-winning cartoon.
"What had 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," he said.
Two members of the akademi's general council belonged to the same church denomination, which had raised objection to the cartoon and they were also of the opinion that there was no need to review the jury's decision, he said.
As the cartoon had triggered a controversy, the CPI(M)-led LDF government had asked the Akademi to review its decision on the award. Cultural Affairs Minister AK Balan had last week told the Assembly that the government was of the opinion that the cartoon had "hurt" the sentiments of the Christian community.
"The government has already taken a stand that the akademi should review its decision," Balan had said. He also said the Left government never intended to target any community and that the Akademi worked independently.
However, the Kerala Catholic Bishops Council had slammed the LDF government and said it was targeting the Christians after reaching a conclusion that the minority community did not stand with CPI(M) during the recent Lok Sabha election, in which the Left front won only one of the 20 seats.
Mulakkal, the then Bishop of Jalandhar, was arrested by Kerala police in September last year amid public outrage after a nun alleged she was repeatedly raped by him in a convent in Kottaym district between 2014 and 2016. The Akademi award carries a cash prize of Rs 50,000, memento and certificate.
Some Christian organisations took out marches on Monday to the akademi headquarters, demanding withdrawal of the award to the cartoon.