The Kerala Story

The image taken from:

Why am I reluctantly glad that such a film has been made?

M Ahmedullah, 8 May 2023

I despise and always try to challenge propaganda, especially when the intention behind them is to generate hate and othering of people. But, in a way, I am glad, though reluctantly, that a film like The Kerala Story has been made. Although things may turn quite dangerous and uncomfortable for Indian Muslims in the coming days due to the film’s release and the controversy being generated, nothing could have stopped another manifestation of anti-Muslim hate in India from emerging, emanating from deep narratives built up over the years.

The image taken from The Print, 7 May 2023

We can expect more creative and relentless manifestations of anti-Muslim hate in India in the coming days, weeks, months and years. So, why am I glad, even though reluctantly, at this latest manifestation of anti-Muslim hate designed to divide communities into Hindu/Muslim lines? There are several reasons.

First, a deep-down problem exists in India regarding how history is understood and evaluated and about India’s cultural and religious identity. The history of Muslims in India and their cultural and religious identity create a serious irreconcilable clash in those who feel and experience this as a problem. India is not alone in this kind of issue. All over the world, history and cultural and religious identity issues are generating many different types of problems, and some countries and communities are dealing with them better than others. India is also, by no means, worse in this regard.

However, there is a danger of the potential threat posed by the makers of The Kerala Story and their backers, supporters and beneficiaries. This film and the orchestrated publicity will help spread, consolidate and deepen all kinds of negativity concerning Islam and Muslims in India and within the Indian subcontinent Diaspora. This may and could lead to serious violence in the future. Unchallenged narratives and lack of empathy through not knowing one another have caused and are causing intercommunal/tribal/racial/religious violence in many parts of the world.

I have been saddened to see what has been happening in the Indian North East, especially Manipur. An ugly tribal/ethnic violence has been unleashed on the beautiful hills of Manipur, causing many deaths and displacement of thousands of innocent people. The breakdown of the violence must have resulted from many years of polarisation among the communities of India’s North East, where unchallenged narratives developed separately and took deep roots where different groups saw each other as rivals and enemies.

The Kerala Story potentially poses very serious problems for Indian Muslims as it will deepen communal polarisation through the narratives being birthed, developed and promoted. And right now, and in the near future, nothing can be done to stop more and more creative manifestations emerging – concepts, historical interpretations and social explanations – designed to promote hate and cause separation. This is because unchallenged narratives built up over the years will have lives of their own, and it will take a very long time before cooling. As such, I see relentless duplications of tried and tested methods and new angles regarding negativising Indian Muslims appearing regularly. I also know that the problems associated with historical interpretations of India’s past and cultural and religious identity of India cannot be resolved by the anti-Muslim programmes of the Hindu nationalists.

I understand deeply the cultural and religious identity issues and problems many Hindus face resulting from certain historical interpretations of the ‘Muslim rule of India’ and current-day social problems and how that impact their psyche. But I cannot see how turning people across the vast country against Indian Muslims in the way that the Hindu nationalists are doing will help resolve the deep problems they are experiencing. What I see, though, is the continuation and intensification of tried and tested and newer and newer anti-Muslim narratives emerging.

The reason I am glad, though reluctantly, at the release of The Kerala Story film and the organisation of other related programmes to generate anti-Muslim hate and cause communal separation is that they will also cause an opposite reaction, generate more Muslim resilience and help strengthen the resolve of other Indians who will more clearly see the danger of extremism and do something about it.