Controversy surrounds the upcoming release of the movie ‘The Kerala Story,’ which claims that 32,000 women in Kerala belonging to the Hindu and Christian communities have disappeared and been trafficked to terrorist outfits such as ISIS as sex slaves. This claim is based on the conspiracy theory of ‘love-jihad,’ which alleges that Muslim men lure Hindu women into relationships to ultimately convert them to Islam. However, there is no evidence to support this exaggerated figure, with no data from the Indian government or international organizations confirming the claim. The movie’s trailer has faced backlash, with the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Congress, and Kerala’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, condemning the film. Two cases have been filed in the Supreme Court to halt the movie’s release, citing hate speech and audio-visual propaganda. The court has asked petitioners to approach the High Court or other appropriate forums. The movie is set to release on May 5th.
Shalini, Geetanjali, Nimah &Asifa marked my lifeline since last 5yrs. Choking me till I tell their stories. Soon u’ll get to see a film which u never imagined, in ur remotest imagination. Thank u Ambikaji, @YaduVJkrishnan, @sunshinepicture & Vipul A Shah from bottom of my heart pic.twitter.com/NmSltqzpf3
— Sudipto SEN (@sudiptoSENtlm) November 3, 2022
The teaser of the film ‘The Kerala Story’ created a buzz on social media when it was first released in November 2022. The video features a woman in a burqa who identifies herself as Fatima Ba, a former Hindu named Shalini Unnikrishnan, and an ISIS terrorist currently imprisoned in Afghanistan. In the teaser, Fatima claims that 32,000 girls like her have been converted to Islam and sent to Syria and Yemen. The video received widespread attention, with many viewers mistaking it for a real-life account. The hashtag #TrueStory was also used by some users while sharing the teaser.
Directed by Sudipto Sen and produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah, ‘The Kerala Story’ purports to reveal the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of 32,000 women in Kerala. Sen, who tweeted about the teaser, expressed his gratitude to those who helped bring the film to fruition, saying, “Shalini, Geetanjali, Nimah &Asifa marked my lifeline since last 5yrs. Choking me till I tell their stories. Soon u’ll get to see a film which u never imagined, in ur remotest imagination. Thank u Ambikaji, @YaduVJkrishnan, @sunshinepicture & Vipul A Shah from bottom of my heart.”
Actress Adah Sharma, who stars in the film ‘The Kerala Story’, spoke to wire-news agency ANI in an interview published on April 30 about the controversy surrounding the film’s claim that 32,000 women have been trafficked from Kerala to become suicide bombers. Sharma dismissed the criticism and said that the focus should be on the missing girls themselves, rather than the number. She also said that the film’s preparation included texts received from a victim. Meanwhile, the film’s producer, Vipul Shah, admitted in an interview with The New Indian that the 32,000 number had been doubted and that the filmmakers had filed an RTI request to obtain more information, but had been unsuccessful. Director Sudipto Sen stated that they had approached authorities for the number of girls missing in the last 10 years, but had received no response. Shah also stated that the film’s focus was on three women rather than the 32,000. The recent trailer for the film has not used the 32,000 number in its promotions.
Director Sudipto Sen provided background information on the 32,000 figure in an interview with YouTube channel Citti Media. He highlighted a study that the former chief minister of Kerala, Oomen Chandy, had given to the Kerala Assembly in 2010, which claimed that between 2,800 and 3,200 girls converted to Islam annually. Sen estimated that over a ten-year period, this would result in an astounding 32,000 to 33,000 girls being transformed. You may watch a video of Sen’s comments on the channel.
Following an examination, it was found that Oomen Chandy, the former chief minister of Kerala, had responded in Malayalam to a question posed in the Kerala Assembly in June 2012. Chandy was asked how many conversions had occurred in the state since 2012. In response, Chandy said there had been 7,713 conversions to Islam and 2,803 to Hinduism, without making a distinction based on gender. Additionally, information regarding the number of women who converted, their initial and final religion, and caste, if applicable, were requested. The question also asked for details on the number of women who converted, their original and eventual religion, and caste if available. Chandy’s reply stated that 2,687 women had converted to Islam, of which 2,195 were Hindu and 492 were Christian. Additionally, from 2009 to March 31, 2012, 79 young women were known to have converted to Christianity, and during the same period, eight women converted to Hinduism through Thiruvananthapuram’s Aryasamaj. The reply did not mention any annual figures for conversion, and there was no reference to the term “love-jihad” or any external forces being behind the conversions. The reply also stated that there was no majority of conversions to any particular religion, and no action had been taken against mass conversion.
We looked at a number of publicly accessible sources that offered information about Kerala’s participation with ISIS and other pertinent numerical data in order to study the issue at hand, which does not cleanly fall into the categories of terrorism or trafficking. These resources were used to offer light on the subject at hand and had some overlap with both terrorism and trafficking.
The National Crime Records Bureau, which falls under the purview of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, maintains records on women who have been trafficked, which are collected from state-level anti-human trafficking units. The bureau’s data includes information on the gender of the victim, whether the victim is above or below the age of 18, the purpose of the trafficking (which includes prostitution and other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labor, petty crimes, forced marriage and domestic servitude, child pornography, organ harvesting, and begging), and the resolution of the case. However, they do not provide statistics on religious affiliations of the victims.
The following information is available with them:
If the case’s victim and the one who was saved are older or younger than 18
The 26th report of the monitoring team for ISIL and Al-Qaeda to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), released in September 2020, revealed the presence of “significant numbers of ISIL operatives” in the southern Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka. However, the report did not mention any cases of women from these states being smuggled or trafficked abroad. The report further stated that ISIL’s Indian affiliate has between 180 to 200 members. Nevertheless, the Indian government has rejected these findings, stating that they are “factually not correct.” The government has been taking measures to express India’s correct position through established mechanisms at various international, multilateral, and bilateral forums, as well as diplomatic channels.
According to the government’s response to the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of parliament, 34 cases have been filed against those affiliated with the Islamic State and 20 cases against the Lashkar-e-Toiba by the National Investigation Agency. Furthermore, the agency has arrested 160 and 180 persons, respectively, associated with these groups. It is noteworthy that the Indian government’s stance on the presence of ISIL operatives in Kerala and Karnataka is in stark contrast to the UNSC report’s findings.
The yearly “Trafficking in Persons” report from the US Department of State on human trafficking investigates all types of trafficking-related exploitation worldwide. India has been categorised as a tier-2 country in these reports, indicating that it has not yet achieved the minimum threshold for the abolition of human trafficking but is working towards it. According to the most recent study from 2022, internal trafficking is India’s worst problem, with bonded and underpaid labour being the main offender. According to a research cited in the paper, there are eight million victims of human trafficking in India, the most of whom are bonded labourers. Although there is a sizable amount of sex trafficking in the nation, the study has no details regarding the exploitation of women in kearla.