Will cartoon controversy change Akademi's head?

Thrissur:  With the cultural affairs minister having asked the Kerala Lalithakala Akademi to revisit the cartoon award,   and latter refusing to budge,  the debate is likely to take a new turn.   The implied request of the minister is for the jury to meet again and select a new winner.   But the Akademi is of the opinion that if that is the minister's intent,  he should put it expressly. 

In this situation,  there is a possibility that the heads of the government-nominated body will see some changes.   There is even some reported string-pulling for the posts that may thus fall vacant.

The officials of the Akademi have made it clear that they would not withdraw the awards at the instance of the government, and if forced to do so,  they will pull out of the body.  Given that they are not going to change their stance,  they anticipate a change of guard in the Akademi at any time.

On the whole, the Akademi and the government are heading to a face-off.  Minister AK Balan has stated that the award is given by the government,  implying that the Akademi is bound to follow the government's interests.  Akademi's chairman Nemam Pushparaj is also a member of the state council of Purogamana Kala Samithi, a CPM-sponsored cultural body and the secretary Panniam Chandran is a nominee of CPI, the second largest party of LDF.

Outside the bodies,  left-leaning cultural activists are of the opinion that the award should not be withdrawn; they do not subscribe to the view that the awards are from the government.  Akademies are obliged to accept the judgement of the jury and therefore the cartoon award should not be revisted,  said KP Mohanan,  Secretary of Sahitya Akademy and Ashokan Charuvil,  general secretary of Purogamana Kala Samithi to Madhyamam.

Meanwhile,  it has also been pointed out that the government which had taken a stand that there should not be any inteference in freedom of expression during the time of the 'Meesha' novel controversy,  has now made a somersault in the cartoon debate. 

The statement by Culture Minister that religious sentiments should not be hurt and that minorities' anger should not be intensified are seen as coming in the backdrop of the setback suffered by LDF in the Lok Sabha elections.  The government has also in mind the upcoming by-polls to the assembly necessitated by several MLAs becoming MPs.  

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