The Ministry of Defence has rejected the Kerala government’s Republic Day tableau proposal for the third time in the past four years, the Hindustan Times reported on Friday.

The Kerala government had submitted a tableau of anti-caste social reformer Narayana Guru and tourism centre Jatayu Park. However, the Centre’s jury had suggested that the tableau should feature the 8th century philosopher Adi Sankaracharya.

State Education Minister V Sivankutty said that the Centre’s decision was “extremely condemnable”. He added that the Kerala unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party “must state whether they agree with this insulting attitude towards Kerala’s Guru”.

Sivankutty claimed that the selection board members initially praised the idea for the tableau but later rejected it. He alleged that the Union government was taking on the Kerala government for opposing its “anti-people policies”, according to the Hindustan Times.

The Sree Narayana Dharma Sanghom Trust, which was founded by Narayana Guru, has also criticised the Union government for the decision. The trust manages the Sivagiri Mutt, a spiritual order of saints that has its headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram.

“It [rejection of the tableau] could be an error committed by non-Malayali officers or a deliberate act by the upper caste hegemony,” Swami Satchidananda, the president of the trust said, according to The New Indian Express. “But the jury’s partisan approach is an insult to lakhs of followers of the Guru and the Mutt. The Central government has enough time left to correct the mistake.”

Satchidananda said that the mutt recognises and honours Adi Sankaracharya, but added that only a section of people in Kerala revere him. “But Guru is respected by all people,” he said. “He is revered across the world. His messages against caste discrimination has great relevance in modern India.”

In 2020, Kerala had proposed a Republic Day tableau featuring the state’s art and architecture, including the traditional art forms of Theyyam and Kalamandala. The Centre, however, rejected the proposal.

In 2021, the Centre had approved a tableau by the Kerala government that showcased the state’s traditional knowledge of coir-making, ANI reported. The artwork had depicted the state’s water bodies and coconut plantations.