05/19/2023, 20.53
Send to a friend

‘The Kerala Story' and other Indian movies are fuelling violence against minorities

by Alessandra De Poli

Bollywood’s role in sectarian propaganda remains a major issue. Ultranationalist Hindus continue to peddle the “Love Jihad” conspiracy against the Muslim minority. The Supreme Court has waded into the latest controversy, ordering filmmakers to add a disclaimer that their story is “fictionalised”. Meanwhile, at least 100 people are arrested in Maharashtra following unrest earlier this month.

Milan (AsiaNews) – Increasingly, major Indian films are sparking controversy, causing physical violence and ideological clashes not to mention legal battles.

The latest case concerns “The Kerala Story", a movie released on 5 May that tells the story of three Indian women who join the Islamic State.

This week violence broke out in Akola, a city in the western state of Maharashtra, over posts about the movie on social media, which hurt religious feelings according to police. At least 100 people were arrested, following clashes that left one person dead and eight injured.

In the disputed Indian Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory claimed by Pakistan, some students were beaten for their opinions about "The Kerala Story", which they had posted on WhatsApp.

"One student was attacked with an iron rod and sustained head injuries. He has got 12 stitches,” said Nasir Khuhami, national convener of the Jammu and Kashmir Students Association (JKSA).

Directed by Sudipto Sen, the film has been promoted in some states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ultranationalist Hindu party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Elsewhere, advertisement for the film has been lowkey. In some states ruled by opposition parties, the movie has been banned out of fear that it might spark sectarian clashes, especially after violence broke out in the state of Manipur earlier this month.

By contrast, in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, state authorities dropped the local tax on the movie to encourage people to go and see it.

Meanwhile, the Indian Supreme Court yesterday stayed a ban imposed by the state of West Bengal (where the BJP is in the opposition) to maintain social peace after some spectators shouted anti-Muslim slogans at the first screenings.

India’s highest court also ordered multiplex owners in Tamil Nadu, another state not governed by the BJP, to provide adequate security at their theatres after they refused to screen "The Kerala Story" on security grounds.

The movie sparked controversy right after its trailer was released last November, when one of the lead actresses said that her character was one of 32,000 Kerala women who had joined terrorist groups.

The filmmakers said they had conducted extensive research to "uncover the hidden truth, of the biggest invisible threat to our daughters," a repackaged version of the "love jihad" conspiracy theory spread by Hindu ultranationalists to fuel Islamophobia.

According to this version, Muslims kidnap and force Hindu and Christian women to marry Muslim men for the sole purpose of converting them to Islam in order to fight a religious war against Hindus.

In one scene of the film, a Muslim cleric is seen advising a group of young men to impregnate women of other faiths if necessary, to force them to join the Islamic State.

In November, police in Kerala (another state not governed by the BJP) filed a First Information Report against the movie after its trailer came out, for spreading false information.

“Freedom of expression is not a license to communalise this country, spread lies, and divide the people. Legal action will be taken against all such anti-social activities,” said Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a member of the Communist Party.

In its ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court told the filmmakers to add two disclaimers to the film –  one saying that it was "a fictionalised version of events" and the other saying that "there is no authentic data to back up the suggestion that the figure of converted people is 32,000 or any other figure".

The justices also said they would watch the film before the next hearing in July.

According to the latest reports, no more than sixty Indians have joined the Islamic State, a figure confirmed by official sources. For the Indian government, the number of Indian participants in the Islamic State’s jihad is no more than a few dozen.

In recent years, researchers have pointed out that Indian Muslims have been relatively apathetic towards the global jihad by al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

You wouldn’t know this by watching Bollywood movies, which have long exploited the topic to nurture anti-Muslim sentiment across the country with movies like “Kashmir files", "RRR" and "Pathaan", just to name a few.

Sectarian divisions not only have violent consequences among ordinary Indians or Bollywood celebrities, but are also openly encouraged in election campaigns.

In Karnataka, a state bordering Kerala, the ruling BJP government was booted out by voters in last week’s state elections.

During the campaign, Prime Minister Modi accused the Indian National Congress of seeking to “lock up” Hanuman" (the Hindu monkey god) after it proposed to ban right-wing Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) groups.

One such organisations is called Bajrang Dal, which translates as the “Brigade of Hanuman”, and is known for its criminal actions against Christian and Muslim minorities.

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Hindu nationalists in decisive victory in Karnataka
Hindu radicals set fire to Jabalpur cathedral, threaten new attacks in Madhya Pradesh
Police gag order silences Sisters of Mother Teresa
Sangh Parivar wants to remove every Christian trace in Orissa
Uttar Pradesh vote to decide India’s future


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”