“The Kerala Story” is a Hindi-language film released in India on May 5, 2023. Directed by Sudipto Sen and produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, the film stars Adah Sharma, Yogita Bihani, Sonia Balani, and Siddhi Idnani. It portrays the story of a group of women from Kerala who allegedly converted to Islam and joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The film has been criticized for promoting the “love jihad” conspiracy theory and spreading propaganda. The plot is based on the false claim that thousands of women from Kerala are being converted to Islam and recruited into ISIS. The Indian National Congress and the Communist Party of India have also criticized the film for promoting the agenda of the Sangh Parivar.
Premise and Factual Accuracy:
The film is captioned as being based on a real-life incident, but the reliability of the statistics shown is not backed by any real evidence. The teaser, released on November 3, 2022, featured Adah Sharma playing the character of Fathima Ba – a Hindu Malayali nurse – who had converted to Islam and joined ISIS, before ending up in an Afghan jail. She identifies herself as one of the 32,000 girls, from the Hindu and Christian communities, who are missing from Kerala and have been recruited to ISIS after being converted to Islam. However, this claimed figure is widely inaccurate, being based on mistranslations, misquotes, and extrapolations from misrepresentations of unrelated statistics.
The “32,000” figure was later pulled from marketing materials and revised to state that it showed the story of “3 women,” with Sen stating that “32,000 is an arbitrary figure [and] doesn’t matter,” but remained in the film and was further increased to “an actual, unofficial figure” of 50,000.
According to the Observer Research Foundation in a 2019 report, about 60 to 70 individuals had joined ISIS from Kerala between 2014 and 2018. According to Indian government figures, not more than a total of 100 to 200 Indians had joined the organization over the years. These figures are significantly lower than the numbers presented in the film.
Criticism and Controversy:
“The Kerala Story” has courted controversy for promoting false information and propaganda, as well as for being insensitive to the people of Kerala and the Muslim community. The film has faced criticism for portraying Kerala as a state where women are forced to convert to Islam and join ISIS, perpetuating negative stereotypes and spreading hate.
The Indian National Congress and the Communist Party of India have criticized the film for promoting the agenda of the Sangh Parivar, a group of Hindu nationalist organizations associated with the ruling party in India, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The film has also been criticized for promoting the “love jihad” conspiracy theory, which alleges that Muslim men are attempting to convert Hindu women to Islam through marriage.
“The Kerala Story” has been the subject of much controversy due to its promotion of false information and propaganda. The film’s portrayal of Kerala and the Muslim community has been criticized for perpetuating negative stereotypes and spreading hate. It is essential to fact-check information before presenting it to the public and to ensure that films do not promote propaganda or misinformation.