The government of West Bengal has imposed a ban on a film that has been criticized for promoting communal hatred and spreading propaganda against Muslims. Titled “The Kerala Story,” the movie alleges that 32,000 Hindu and Christian women from Kerala have converted to Islam, with some being recruited by the militant group Islamic State (IS). Critics argue that the film disseminates false information aimed at fueling communal polarization and unrest.
Despite the backlash, the film has garnered support from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and has been embraced by Hindu hardliners who claim its portrayal is accurate. West Bengal, however, which is governed by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s party, banned the movie on Monday, with Banerjee condemning it as a “distorted story” during a press conference in Kolkata. The decision was made to prevent any incidents of hatred and violence and to maintain peace in the state, she explained.
Initially, the movie’s trailer claimed that thousands of women had left their homes “to be buried in the deserts,” but following the mounting controversy, it was edited to depict the story of three women from Kerala. Nevertheless, the closing credits still state that the film is “dedicated to the thousands of girls in Kerala and Mangalore who didn’t come back home after their conversions.”
Anurag Thakur, India’s Information Minister, defended the film, stating that it portrays the reality of the Islamic State. Thakur criticized West Bengal’s ban, suggesting that it aligns the state with terrorist organizations that lure women through love. He urged everyone to watch the movie to understand the agenda of these global terror outfits that operate but recruit in certain parts of India.
The controversy surrounding this film follows a similar incident involving “The Kashmir Files,” which depicted Hindus fleeing India-occupied Kashmir in 1989-90. During screenings last year, some individuals in cinemas called for revenge killings of Muslims. Concerns over potential violence and unrest have also prompted multiplexes in the southern state of Tamil Nadu to halt screenings of “The Kerala Story.”
It is worth noting that India previously banned the screening of a BBC documentary that examined Prime Minister Modi’s role during the 2001 killings in Gujarat, deeming it “hostile propaganda and anti-India garbage.”