Thiruvananthapuram: The case of a Catholic bishop, Franco Mulakkal who is accused of abusing a nun from Kerala multiple times has come back to haunt the church after a cartoon lampooning the bishop won an award this week.

The bishop, who is presently based in Jalandhar in Punjab state in north India, and the nun, are both from Kerala, and the case has attracted wide media attention from the time it surfaced in 2018.

The issue has now returned to the spotlight with the Kerala government-run Lalithakala Akademy, an institution that promotes art and culture, deciding to pick a cartoon that ridiculed the bishop, for an award.

The cartoon, drawn by K.K. Subhas, depicts the bishop as a fowl and holding a staff that has a ladies’ undergarment at its end.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council was not amused, and the KCBC spokesperson Varghese Vallikkat, a priest, said the decision to give the award to the cartoon was “highly provocative and objectionable”.

He said the decision of a state-funded institution to make such a choice raised doubts whether the Communist Party of India Marxist government has a feeling that the minority Christian community did not support the government in the recent Lok Sabha election.

In Kerala, the CPM-led Left Democratic Front had come a cropper in the Lok Sabha poll, winning only one of the 20 seats in the state.

State culture minister A.K. Balan also criticised the decision to give the award to the cartoon ridiculing bishop Franco Mulakkal.

Balan said the cartoon “prima facie hurt religious sentiments”, adding that the state government had not intervened in the choice of the award.

Varghese Vallikkat said the cartoon was particularly abhorrent because by showing an undergarment instead of the cross, the visual mocked the Christian concept of the good shepherd. He said the academy officials should apologise, and that the Left Democratic Front government in the state should clarify if this is what it means by “protection of minorities and secularism”.