Table of Contents
On 3rd November 2022, the teaser of the new film ‘The Kerala Story’ was released. The film produced by Vipul Amrutlal Shah and directed by Sudipto Sen depicts the heartbreaking and gut-wrenching stories of 32000 women from Kerala who were radicalized to join the ISIS (Islamic States of Iraq and Syria) terrorist ranks. It is notable that many of these Muslim women from Kerala joining ISIS were converted with the motive of sending them to the terrorist organization ISIS.
The trailer shows a Muslim woman in front of the international border narrating her story. The character played by actress Adah Sharma says that earlier she used to be Shalini Unnikrishnan and wanted to serve the people as a nurse. She further tells that she was forcefully converted to Islam and renamed Fatima Ba, and subsequently sent to ISIS to become a terrorist and ultimately get locked up in an Afghanistan jail.
‘The Kerala Story’ narrates the pain of 32000 such converted Muslim women from Kerala who were sent to ISIS as terrorists only to get buried in the deserts of Yemen and Syria. A dreaded game of converting a normal girl to an ISIS terrorist is being played in Kerala for the last few years. Increasing radicalization in the southern state because of the activities of Islamist organizations like the Popular Front of India and its other allied outfits is responsible for this trafficking of girls to the gulf.
Makers of the film promise authentic and unbiased portrayal
The teaser for “The Kerala Story,” which promises to be a very authentic, unbiased, and truthful tale of events that shocked Kerala, is both matter-of-fact and powerful in its stance. While most people would avoid the topic, producer Vipul Amrutlal Shah was adamant to present this gruesome story on the big screen, supported by 4 years of exhaustive study. Director Sudipto Sen visited the region, including some Arab nations, talked with residents and the relatives of the victims, and was astounded by what he saw.
At the time of the announcement of the film in March 2022, Vipul Shah had said, “In this movie, you will be confronted with a human tragedy that will leave you reeling. During the first meeting with Sudipto (writer-director), I burst into tears as he described it to me and shared his extensive research that spanned three to four years. I decided to produce this film on the same day that occurred. We want to create a film that is very realistic, impartial, and accurate to the events depicted.”
Kerala has been the target of Islamists since 2009
According to a recent investigation, approximately 32,000 females from the Hindu and Christian faiths in Kerala and Mangalore have converted to Islam since 2009. The majority of these girls eventually wind up in Syria, Afghanistan, and other regions with a high concentration of ISIS and Haqqani influence. The movie will reveal the truth about this conspiracy and the suffering of these ladies.
Though the conversions started in 2009, ISIS involvement in Kerala was initially traced in 2013. As early as 2014, ISIS established roots in Kerala, with modules encouraging religious conversions and aiming to attract professionals to join its troops in Afghanistan and Syria. Plenty of Kerala men and women are said to have joined the ISKP (Islamic State of Khorasan Province) in recent years. The United Nations warned in its 2020 terrorism report that there are a substantial number of ISIS terrorists in the Indian state of Kerala.
Furthermore, a National Investigation Agency’s charge sheet filed in July 2020 in connection with the murder of Special Sub Inspector Wilson revealed a strong association between ISIS terrorists active and growing in the state. The NIA is currently investigating cases related to IS operating recruitment centers in Kerala. Several non-Muslim women have also been radicalized and converted in the last few years and have been sent to Afghanistan and Syria to fight for the Islamic State.
Converting and radicalizing women in Kerala
When Mini Vijayan, a military official, claimed that her daughter Aparna had been forcibly converted to Islam, the issue of Kerala women being converted and recruited by ISIS received additional widespread attention in 2016. Aparna was linked to Sathyasarani, also known as the Malappuram-based Markazul Hidaya Educational and Charitable Trust. She arrived at the courthouse with a woman named Sumayya. Aparna informed the authorities that she had converted to Islam and did not want to rejoin her mother. When Aparna disappeared from her Kochi dormitory as a B. Tech. student, she married Aashiq, an auto driver from Malappuram.
Such episodes have been documented in several instances. When the NIA began looking into the Love Jihad and ISIS connection cases in 2017, they discovered that two Hindu girls called Athira and Akhila (who subsequently changed their names to Hadiya) had been lured by Sainaba, a PFI member.
The Malappuram connection
These ladies were all discovered to be associated with the Markazul Hidaya or the Sathyasarani Trust in Malappuram. Hadiya’s conversion and marriage to Shafeen Jahan were not unrelated events, according to the NIA, that testified in court, but rather the result of a planned operation by Sathyasarani and PFI. According to a sting operation against Sathyasarani and PFI, the founding member of PFI acknowledged on video that their ultimate objective is to turn India into an Islamic state. Additionally, it was announced that the NIA had received the investigative report.
The Sathyasarani Trust in Malappuram, also known as the Markazul Hidaya, a PFI-run organization, appears to be the unifying theme connecting these conversions and “education.” Individuals associated with this center included Aparna, Hadiya (Akhila), and the ladies who traveled to join ISIS. The records of 70 Hindu and Christian girls’ conversions were found during an investigation by law enforcement officials. The girls were there, according to the trust, to study religion.
This is just a tip of an iceberg
Sathyasarani is only one of several institutions. Its supporters continue to reject any affiliations with extreme organizations or terrorist organizations. In Kerala, several of these facilities are in operation. Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation is the primary source of literature used by 95% of these brainwashing centers. Numerous converted females have also mentioned how enthralled they were by Naik’s talks. 5,975 persons in the state reportedly converted to Islam between 2011 and 2015, according to government statistics. 1,410 people converted alone in 2015. Women under 35 make up a staggering 76 percent of the new converts.
What is the key legal hurdle?
This is remarkably similar to incidents of forced conversion in Sindh, Pakistan. The only difference is that because of India’s strict laws against child marriage, the victims are now adults. As a result, the cases simply get dropped or stagnated because the girl and her Muslim husband are safeguarded by the law for acting of their own free will, this introduces more issues for the family members and police. The family and authorities are unable to prove pressure or indoctrination without the girl’s clear confession.
Conclusion of The Kerala Story
Radical Islam has deeply rooted itself in Kerala. The sheer volume of radicalization, conversion, and recruiting centers operating is still far from grabbing the attention of the national media or directing it toward the issue. However, it is undeniably a matter of grave concern. In the post-ISIS world, using women as tools and weapons—whether through sex slavery or recruitment for terrorism—is no longer a secret. The governments, both state and union, must take it seriously and devise effective solutions to combat the problem. Now that the film ‘The Kerala Story’ is about to release soon, there is hope that this serious issue will come to the center of the popular discourse.