The Kerala Story banned in India's West Bengal

Film claims that 32,000 women were converted to Islam and recruited by ISIS

A protest in Chennai, India on Saturday against the screening of controversial film 'The Kerala Story'. EPA
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India’s West Bengal state has banned a controversial film that claims thousands of women from Kerala joined ISIS after converting to Islam.

The Kerala Story, directed by Sudipto Sen, tells the story of three young women who are brainwashed and enlisted to fight for the extremist group.

The film describes a purported threat of the right-wing conspiracy theory “love jihad”.

The Hindi film hit the theatres on Friday last week and has since triggered political outcry, with many labelling it propaganda that slanders all Muslims in the state.

Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, said it was a “distorted movie”, aimed at defaming Kerala.

“It was meant purely to humiliate a particular section of society … the West Bengal government has decided to ban the movie,” Ms Banerjee said.

“This is to avoid any incident of hatred and violence, and to maintain peace in the state.”

She has ordered the film to be removed from all theatres.

The film has also been pulled from theatres in Tamil Nadu state amid protests from Muslim groups.

The film is being widely promoted by the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Its production has been made tax-free in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP unit in election-ready Karnataka held a special screening of the film at the weekend. It was also screened by the BJP branch in the capital Delhi, watched by senior party leaders.

The film was invoked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during election speeches in Karnataka. The film was trying to “expose the consequence of terrorism” in a society, especially in Kerala, Mr Modi said.

“#TheKeralaStory exposes the sinister nexus of conversion. This film exposes the nefarious conspiracies of organisations like the global terrorist organisation ISIS against India,” Mr Modi's Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur said on Twitter.

“Kerala Story warns us how to save our sisters, daughters, children from the monster of terrorism and religious conversion.”

The Kerala Story created ripples when the trailer was first released last year showing lead actress, Adah Sharma, who plays a Malayali woman, saying that she wanted to become a nurse but was converted to Islam and recruited by ISIS.

The makers of the film initially claimed that 32,000 women from the coastal state were converted to Islam and recruited by the militant group.

But after widespread criticism and challenges from local politicians to prove the claims, the filmmakers changed the caption of the film on YouTube tpo remove the reference to 32,000 women. It now says it is a “compilation of true stories of three young women” from the state.

The Kerala High Court refused to halt the release of the film, noting that the Central Board of Film Certification found it suitable for public viewing.

India’s Supreme Court also rejected petitions filed by a Muslim body challenging its release.

Updated: May 09, 2023, 6:28 AM