A Bollywood film has sparked controversy by portraying Kerala, India, as a haven for Islamic terrorism. The filmmakers have said it was based on real information and events; however, no evidence has been provided.
Police in the southern Indian state of Kerala is looking into a contentious Bollywood movie that depicts the state as a hotbed of Islamic terrorism and forced conversion. Directed by the Indian filmmaker Sudipto Sen, 'The Kerala Story' has drawn flak for its fictional portrayal of tens of thousands of Keralan women who, according to the film, converted to Islam and went on to become terrorists for the Islamic State in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Syria.
In a teaser clip, an actress plays a Hindu woman who falls prey to what appears to be a "dangerous game" of conversion. "I wanted to become a nurse and serve humanity," says the niqab-clad woman directly to the camera. "Now I am Fatima Ba, an Isis terrorist in a jail in Afghanistan. I am not alone."
The Kerala Story, a film about Indian women converting to Islam and fighting for ISIL, has prompted complaints and a police investigation pic.twitter.com/Z8BinnY47K
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In the trailer, the woman claimed that 32,000 girls like her were "buried" in the deserts of Syria and Yemen. A dangerous game is being played where ordinary girls are converted to Islam and recruited by the terrorist group in Kerala. "... will nobody stop them?" the woman said.
According to the film's creators, the story is based on actual events and information, but they haven't offered any documentation or official reports to support their claims.
After the trailer's release, there was a backlash in the southern parts of India. A Tamil Nadu-based journalist named BR Aravindakshan sent a petition to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the office of the chief minister of Kerala, and the Kerala police, with the accusation that the film is spreading "false information" that Kerala supports terrorism. He said the film's contents should be looked into first and to halt the film's release.
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A criminal prosecution has been filed against the trailer after Kerala's chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, ordered the state police to investigate the complaint. Police are investigating allegations of false information and the propagation of communal hatred in Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram.
The movie's plot appears to be based on the experiences of four women from Kerala who converted to Islam between 2016 and 2018 and traveled to Afghanistan with their husbands to join IS in the Khorasan province. With the four women's husbands killed, they all turned themselves in 2019. However, since the Indian government has refused to take them back, they are all still detained in Afghan jails.
There may have been cases of Islam conversion in Kerala, although there has been no verification of the claim that the number is around 32,000, as the film alleges.
A heavily leftwing, secular government currently rules Kerala. It is regarded as the most developed state in India and has the highest literacy and life expectancy rates. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which rules India's central government and the northern parts with Hindu nationalist politics, could not secure a single seat in Kerala in the last general election. After the teaser was released, some BJP figures accused Kerala as a "breeding ground" for Islamic terrorism.
Similar incidents with controversial films happened in the past. A Bollywood film was released this March with the name 'The Kashmir Files,' which claimed to show the real story of the expulsion of a Hindu community from the predominantly Muslim state of Kashmir. The filmmakers were criticized for warping facts and pushing anti-Muslim propaganda. Despite the controversy, it was one of India's most financially successful movies this year.