The teaser of The Kerala Story, a Hindi film featuring actor Adah Sharma and directed by Sudipto Sen, says 32,000 Malayali women were converted to Islam and absorbed by the terrorist outfit, Islamic State (IS), over the past 10 years.
The teaser depicted Adah Sharma narrating the story of a woman called Shalini Unnikrishnan, who wanted to become a nurse but was recruited by the IS.
“A deadly game is being played to convert normal girls into dreaded terrorists in Kerala and that too in the open,” read the English translation of the narration.
South First contacted the Kerala police to know the reality.
The police have no information about such largescale recruitment to the IS as claimed in the movie. They have now sought legal opinion on whether a case should be registered for spreading such a falsehood.
Question of credibility
After The Kerala Story’s teaser was released, Aravindakshan R, a Chennai-based journalist, wrote to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, urging him to initiate action against the film unless the makers produced relevant supportive documents to back their claim.
“The teaser portrays the state of Kerala, a part of India, as a terrorist state. The teaser says that it is a true story set in Kerala. Therefore, I request you to call and enquire with the director of the movie, Sudipto Sen, on what basis the teaser was made,” Aravindakshan wrote in the letter to the chief minister, who also holds the home portfolio.
“The teaser was released on 3 November. I watched it the next day. The teaser says the IS is recruiting very openly in Kerala and there is no one to stop it. It says 32,000 women have been converted to Islam and recruited in the last 10 years. This means, on average, 3,000 women join the IS annually. Can you accept it,” he asked while speaking to South First.
He pointed out that conversions were happening all across the country. The teaser was not about conversions, but recruitment to IS.
The journalist felt the teaser was made to misrepresent Kerala’s image.
‘Untruthful representation of Kerala’
“Kerala is a part of India. It is not a separate nation. This untruthful portrayal of Kerala is completely against the unity and sovereignty of the country,” he further stated.
Aravindakshan added that the teaser questioned the credibility of central and state intelligence agencies. The journalist has also petitioned Prasoon Joshi, the chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), and chairpersons of all state film certification boards to certify the movie only after confirming the veracity of the claims.
I have sent an email complaint to @CMOKerala
Mr.@pinarayivijayan and @TheKeralaPolice asking them to personally call the director of “The Kerala Story” Mr.Sudipto Sen @sudiptoSENtlm and investigate the veracity of the released teaser pic.twitter.com/eZ9qcrK8Oe
— Aravindakshan B R (@RealAravind36) November 6, 2022
Since CBFC cannot ban a film, Aravindakshan sent letters to Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur as well as secretary Apoorva Chandra. He requested them to ban the film unless the director produced official documents supporting the claims made in the movie.
Police seek legal opinion
Thiruvananthapuram Police Commissioner Sparjan Kumar, probing the issue based on a directive by the state police chief Anil Kant, told South First that an FIR was yet to be filed.
“We have received a letter. But who is the complainant or the victim? We have sought a legal opinion, which we expect to receive in the next two days. We will decide on the matter based on the legal view,” Kumar said.
He added that the police did not have any information on large-scale recruitment to IS, as claimed in the teaser.
MP to Shah: Ludicrously fictitious story
On Wednesday, 9 November, CPI(M)’s Rajya Sabha member John Brittas wrote a letter to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking urgent action against the teaser.
Besides defaming Kerala, the teaser posed a severe threat to harmony, secularism and national unity, the MP pointed out in the letter.
Teaser of ‘The Kerala Story’, falsely claims that 32000 women from Kerala were converted to IS & send abroad. Being widely circulated, this severly threatens harmony, secularism& national unity apart from defaming Kerala. Wrote to @AmitShah ji& @ianuragthakur ji for urgent action pic.twitter.com/spWh8su4l4
— John Brittas (@JohnBrittas) November 9, 2022
“The teaser claims to be depicting the story of 32,000 women from Kerala, who were radicalised to join the ISIS terrorist group, which is rubbish and fallacious”, he said.
“Such dissemination of grossly false information may lead to inconceivable repercussions and unrest in the society and the same will amount to defaming the state as well. This false narrative is being massively spread over social media,” he told Shah.
The letter also stated that the “impulsive teaser” had sown the seeds of distrust among various sections of people in the state as well as in the country.
“It attempts to picturise a ludicrously fictitious story, claiming as a true narrative of the actual events. It is not only derogatory but also aimed at causing communal divide and tension between various religions, which therefore entails serious penal consequences,” the letter continued.
Brittas also alleged that the teaser misquoted two former chief ministers. He said it could not be considered accidental and was a conscious effort to defame Kerala and polarise the society.
What the two former chief ministers said
Incidentally, Sen said in an interview with Citti last year that he arrived at the figure of 32,000 based on a statement by former chief minister Oommen Chandy.
Chandy in 2012 had said that 2,667 women in the state had converted to Islam.
Sen claimed in the interview that Chandy had said approximately 2,800 to 3,200 girls were taking up Islam, so he calculated that it would add up to 32,000 in 10 years. The former chief minister had not mentioned an annual figure.
The other chief minister who Sen misquoted was VS Achuthanandan. He claimed that Achuthanandan, “who was the chief minister at the time”, had told a news conference in Delhi in 2005 that the IS had hatched a sinister plan to convert Kerala into the hub of the organisation.
Incidentally, CPI(M) veteran Achuthanandan was the chief minister from 2006 to 2011.
In fact, he had held a news conference in July 2010, where he made a controversial statement about the now-banned Popular Front of India.
“PFI was trying to multiply Muslim numbers in the state by influencing the youth of other religions and converting them by giving money, marrying them to Muslim women and thus producing kids of the community,” The Times of India quoted Achuthanandan as saying.
Brittas concluded the letter by saying the blatant abuse of the freedom of expression to spread canards and induce violence were “ghastly despicable acts”, that warranted prompt action.
Sangh Parivar agenda: Opposition leader
The leader of the Opposition in the Kerala Assembly and senior Congress leader VD Satheesan, meanwhile, told a wire agency that the teaser was a “clear case of misinformation”.
“I have seen that teaser. It’s a clear case of misinformation. There is nothing like that happening in Kerala. This is to tarnish the image of Kerala. This is a Sangh Parivar agenda. They are consistently trying to spread hatred among people. On what basis is the film made, and on what information,” he asked.
He also opined that if the ruling LDF government did not act, his party would approach the court seeking a ban on the movie.
The popular fact-checking website, Alt News said the filmmaker’s claims were based on “misquotes, flawed math and imaginary figures”.
Incidentally, an earlier movie, The Kashmir Files, too, had courted controversy over the alleged misinformation on the Kashmir situation.
Directed by Vivek Agnihotri, the movie had Mithun Chakraborty and Anupam Kher playing the lead roles.