Display of a painting of Jesus Christ -- along with icons of Communism like Karl Marx, Lenin and Che Guevara at an exhibition organisation by the Communist Party of India - Marxist in Thiruvananthapuram -- has sparked a debate with sections of the Catholic Church seeing it as an attempt to win the support of its believers.
The party holds that there is nothing strange in displaying the painting of Christ in an exhibition, ahead of the party's 20th state conference, that aims at looking at the human history in its totality.
Sections in Catholic Church view it suspiciously as an attempt by the party to shore up its support base by winning support of the believers.
The show that opened earlier this week, titled "Marx is correct," has a wide range of pictures, paintings, clippings and copies of historical documents throwing light into the history of struggles for social and political emancipation through the centuries. The exhibits were chosen with special focus on the history of Communist movement in India and the world.
The picture of the crucified Christ has a snapshot below it, which, after briefly tracing his life and death, describes Jesus "as a social reformer who emancipated Jews from slavery."
According to a church spokesperson, "this, in a way, exposed the party's search for new icons as their traditional heroes like Lenin, Stalin and Mao have ceased to inspire the present generation."
"Over the centuries, Communism has sought to grow world over by running down faith and religion. But now the movement is facing a serious crisis. If they are genuinely interested in having a re-look at their perspective on religion, it is welcome. But if their intention is to make mere political gains, that is not going to succeed," he said.
When asked about the debate triggered by the exhibition, CPI-M sources said the show was organised to offer a comprehensive look at the history of human struggles and social transformation through a handful of select exhibits.
They also pointed out that on similar occasions, the party had put up images of spiritual leaders like Sreenarayana Guru and Swamy Vivekananda as it had no difficulty in recognising their great contributions to the history of the nation and spiritual and social liberation of human beings.