The Yogi Adityanath government today announced that the ‘The Kerala Story, produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah and directed by Sudipto Sen, will be made tax-free in Uttar Pradesh, a day after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the film will be banned in the state as it may create unrest.
The controversial film, that has had its share of critics for being a propaganda piece, claims to tell stories of three women from Kerala that went missing and were radicalised into joining the terror group ISIS.
The movie has sharply divided public opinion and has triggered opposite responses from state governments, even as its makers urged viewers to withhold judgement before watching the film.
Uttar Pradesh follows the Madhya Pradesh government that had made the film tax-free, where Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan noted, the film ‘exposes the conspiracy of love jihad, religious conversion and terrorism and brings out its hideous face.’
BJP leaders across the country have urged state governments, especially in non-BJP ruled states, to extend tax-free status to the film.
The CPM-led Kerala government tore into the film’s makers and accused them of taking up the Sangh Parivar’s propaganda, after the film’s trailer first released.
In the trailer, the description earlier claimed 32,000 women from Kerala had joined the terror group ISIS. This was later changed by the makers to ‘true stories of three young girls from different parts of Kerala’ after movie producers faced criticism for wrongly projecting facts.
The Union Home Ministry reported that since 2014, 62 young people from India have been identified to have joined ISIS and 68 Indians settled abroad have links with ISIS.
274 people have been arrested thus far for having links with ISIS or its affiliates by Indian security agencies.
Radicalization is however hard to quantify, so the actual numbers are unknown, as many are brainwashed on the ‘dark web.’ Prospective recruits are let off with a warning after ‘de-radicalizing’ them, an official says.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said ‘The Kerala Story’ tries to project the state as a centre of religious extremism by raising the issue of ‘love jihad,’ an idea rejected by Indian courts.
Mr Vijayan said such ‘propaganda films’ and the alienation of Muslims in Kerala, as across the nation, feeds into the Sangh Parivar‘s efforts to gain political advantage.
He accused the Sangh Parivar of trying to destroy religious harmony by ‘sowing the poisonous seeds of communalism.’
While West Bengal has announced a ban on the film, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have not officially announced one, although certain movie theatres are refraining from screening it owing to security concerns.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee yesterday said the film is an attempt to ‘defame’, as she announced the ban.
‘Why did they make Kashmir Files? To humiliate one section. What is this Kerala files? If they can prepare Kashmir files to condemn the Kashmiri people… now they are defaming Kerala state also. Everyday they are defaming through their narrative,’ she said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also weighed in on the movie on the campaign trail in Karnataka, saying it ‘shows the ugly truth of terrorism and exposes terrorists’ design.’
Slamming the Congress for opposing the film, he said the Opposition party has ‘shielded terrorism for vote bank.’
Controversy has heightened after the film’s director, Sudipto Sen, told Mumbai police that one of the crew members of the movie has received a threatening message which said, ‘They did not do a good thing by showing the story.’
Mumbai police have provided security to the crew member, but no FIR has been filed yet.
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