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    The Kerala Story: West Bengal ban on ‘Islamic State’ film sparks row


    May 9, 2023
    The Kerala Story: West Bengal ban on ‘Islamic State’ film sparks row

    NEW DELHI — India’s West Bengal state has banned a new film that shows three women from the country joining the Islamic State (IS) group, saying it has the potential to incite violence.

    The Kerala Story follows the journey of three women from Kerala state who are “converted” into terrorists.

    Its makers say the film is based on years of research, but some critics have called it propaganda.

    The West Bengal government said it banned the film to maintain peace.

    But some politicians from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have criticized the move. The BJP is in power nationally but is in the opposition in West Bengal, which is governed by the Trinamool Congress.

    Several BJP leaders, both at the federal and state levels, have backed the film.

    Two state governments – Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, both governed by the BJP – announced that they have made the film tax-free.

    Federal minister Anurag Thakur alleged that the West Bengal government’s sympathies were with terror groups and not with “the victims of terrorism”.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also praised the film during an election rally in Karnataka state last week, saying that it tried to “expose the consequences of terrorism in a society”.

    Before West Bengal’s announcement, Bollywood actor Shabana Azmi had tweeted that she did not support calls to ban the film.

    The Kerala Story, which released in theaters on Friday, had sparked controversy months before its release. In its teaser, released in November, an actress had claimed that her character was one among 32,000 women from the state who had become terrorists.

    But after criticism and legal challenges, the makers updated the film’s description on YouTube to the “compilation of the true stories of three young girls from different parts of Kerala”.

    The Kerala government has called the film a deliberate attempt to “spread hate” and communally polarize the state but has not banned screenings.

    In neighboring Tamil Nadu state, an association of multiplex owners said they would stop screening the film, anticipating protests.

    Earlier, the Kerala high court had refused to stay the release of the film. Next week, the Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal against the high court’s order. BBC

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