After the Kerala government issued transfer orders to two police officials heading the investigation in the rape case against Bishop Franco Mulakakal, it is now all set to review an award-winning cartoon by cartoonist Subhash KK. According to Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC), the cartoon shows the rape-accused Bishop in a bad light and hurts their religious sentiments.
The cartoon, which won Kerala Lalithakala Akademi award, depicts Franco as a cock, propped up by MLA PC George, who openly supported him, even as the nuns who spoke up are seen fleeing the scene. Interestingly, though PC George is holding up Franco, the latter is seen standing on a police cap, suggesting that officials were lax in their duty. Also in the frame is PK Sasi of the CPI(M), who has been accused of sexual harassment. Both the bishop and PK Sasi are wearing the same headdress, making it clear that they are only versions of each other.
There's also a woman's underwear drawn in the bishop's staff that Franco carries. And right above the cartoon is written, 'Vishwasam rakshati', which sarcastically says "your faith will save you".
The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) had strongly objected to the cartoon. A statement by Varghese Vallikat, the spokesperson of KCBC, had called the cartoon incendiary and objectionable. "We suspect that the CPI(M)'s evaluation that Christians did not vote for them during the Lok Sabha elections was behind the decision to confer an award for this cartoon,” he said.
KCBC was most offended by the underwear that cartoonist had drawn on “the good shepherd” symbol. The statement said, "In the name of condemning Bishop Franco, the cartoonist has insulted Christianity by drawing an objectionable picture on the Good Shepherd symbol. The Left government in Kerala has honoured such a distorted cartoon".
While asking LalithaKala Akademi to apologise for the cartoon, KCBC also asked whether this was the Left government's policy to help minorities and promote communal harmony.
Following criticisms by KCBC, the Minister for Law, Culture and Cinema, AK Balan, said that the government will re-examine the award. In a statement, the Minister said, "While the government accepts the theme of the cartoon on Franco Mulakkal, we are viewing the insult to a religious symbol seriously. In the light of this serious issue, the government has asked the Lalit Kala Academy to review the awards given for cartoons this year."
Meanwhile, speaking to TNM, Subhash said, “I have nothing to say in this regard. They (Lalithakala Akademi) have not contacted me or informed me about this decision. I don’t know anything about this matter and hence I do not want to react now. Let them inform me and once they do I will respond.”
(With inputs from Sandeep Vellaram and Sreedevi Jayarajan)