The Catholic Church in Kerala has condemned a cartoon of rape-accused bishop Franco Mulakkal that depicted him as a rooster, claiming that it is vulgar and humiliates Christian symbols, PTI reported on Wednesday. The Kerala Lalithakala Akademi had conferred the best cartoon award on the drawing the previous day.

However, the Kerala Catholic Bishop Council demanded that the award be withdrawn. Subsequently, the Pinarayi Vijayan-led Left Front government in the state ordered the Akademi to re-examine the matter. The Catholic Church has also demanded an apology from the officials at the Akademi.

The church also wondered whether the Left Democratic Front government was targetting Christians after concluding that the Christian community did not vote for it during the Lok Sabha elections. The Left Democratic Front won just one out of the 20 seats in the state.

The cartoon, titled “Viswasam Rakshathi” (protection of faith), by artist KK Subhash, had appeared in a Malayalam magazine last year, after Mulakkal was accused of rape. The Kerala Lalithakatha Akademi selected it for this year’s award. The cartoon, apart from depicting Mulakkal as a rooster, has a pair of pink coloured lingerie in the crosier, carried by a bishop as a symbol of the pastoral office. Meanwhile, a group of nuns is shown fleeing the place.

Kerala Catholic Bishop Council spokesperson Father Varghese Vallikkat claimed that the cartoon was “very provocative and condemnable”.

The Mulakkal case

In June 2018, the police filed a case against Mulakkal after the nun from the Missionaries of Jesus congregation accused him of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016 in Kottayam. The congregation is based in Punjab’s Jalandhar district but it runs two convents in Kerala’s Kottayam and Kannur districts. The alleged abuse took place in Kottayam.

Mulakkal has repeatedly denied the charges and accused the nun of exacting revenge on him for ordering an inquiry into a complaint against her. He has filed a complaint against the complainant and five other nuns, accusing them of framing him. Last month, a court in Kerala handed over the chargesheet to Mulakkal, and also agreed to extend his bail.

The Kerala Police had filed the chargesheet against Mulakkal on April 9, seven months after his arrest. The charges against the bishop include illegal confinement, rape, unnatural sex, detention of woman, and repeated sexual abuse of the complainant. The police had also submitted a 1,400-page supplementary document containing confidential statements.